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More than 250 small-business owners attend Affordable Care Act seminar at SNHU

  • Left: JoAnn Kasper of Weare, owner and director of Little Buttercups Nursery School, said, "As a small business, the cost is obviously going to be high on my list of, 'What would it cost me, what's it going to cost them?' and everyone is going to have to have it." Right: Robin Stevens of Goffstown, owner of Sensible Orthotics, said, "The reason I came today was to find out more about how our new insurance is going to impact me, my business and my future employees."<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY photos / Monitor staff)

    Left: JoAnn Kasper of Weare, owner and director of Little Buttercups Nursery School, said, "As a small business, the cost is obviously going to be high on my list of, 'What would it cost me, what's it going to cost them?' and everyone is going to have to have it." Right: Robin Stevens of Goffstown, owner of Sensible Orthotics, said, "The reason I came today was to find out more about how our new insurance is going to impact me, my business and my future employees."

    (JOHN TULLY photos / Monitor staff)

  • Linette Handschumaker of Bedford. Non-profit business management.<br/>"Was there going to be some competition so we would have enough choice to make a difference in the premiums that we pay given that the scale of the market is somewhat smaller in New Hampshire."<br/>"The biggest change will be learning about the law and actually being able to use the exchange."<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Linette Handschumaker of Bedford. Non-profit business management.
    "Was there going to be some competition so we would have enough choice to make a difference in the premiums that we pay given that the scale of the market is somewhat smaller in New Hampshire."
    "The biggest change will be learning about the law and actually being able to use the exchange."

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Steve Robinson of Loudon. Owner of Checkmate Payroll.<br/>"Probably the biggest change is going to be to decide, number one, for our employees, are they going to be better off buying the insurance through the exchange, getting the subsidies if they qualify."<br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Steve Robinson of Loudon. Owner of Checkmate Payroll.
    "Probably the biggest change is going to be to decide, number one, for our employees, are they going to be better off buying the insurance through the exchange, getting the subsidies if they qualify."
    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Robin Stevens, of Goffstown. Owner of Sensible Orthotics. <br/>"The reason I came today was to find out more about how our new insurance is going to impact me, my business and my future employees."<br/>"Can I afford to pay for the insurance? What are my costs? Basically it's all about costs and how it's going to impact my business."<br/>"For me it's hard because I'm looking to hire, but I also need to know what I have to do for those employees. What is my responsibility to them?"<br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Robin Stevens, of Goffstown. Owner of Sensible Orthotics.
    "The reason I came today was to find out more about how our new insurance is going to impact me, my business and my future employees."
    "Can I afford to pay for the insurance? What are my costs? Basically it's all about costs and how it's going to impact my business."
    "For me it's hard because I'm looking to hire, but I also need to know what I have to do for those employees. What is my responsibility to them?"
    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • JoAnn Kasper of Weare. Owner and Director of Little Buttercups Nursery School.<br/>"As a small business, the cost is obviously going to be high on my list of 'What would it cost me, what's it going to cost them' and everyone is going to have to have it."<br/>"I wanted to know what's going to be affordable for them. How is it going to benefit them and the cost-share, what will the company have to pay and what can I offer."<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    JoAnn Kasper of Weare. Owner and Director of Little Buttercups Nursery School.
    "As a small business, the cost is obviously going to be high on my list of 'What would it cost me, what's it going to cost them' and everyone is going to have to have it."
    "I wanted to know what's going to be affordable for them. How is it going to benefit them and the cost-share, what will the company have to pay and what can I offer."

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Left: JoAnn Kasper of Weare, owner and director of Little Buttercups Nursery School, said, "As a small business, the cost is obviously going to be high on my list of, 'What would it cost me, what's it going to cost them?' and everyone is going to have to have it." Right: Robin Stevens of Goffstown, owner of Sensible Orthotics, said, "The reason I came today was to find out more about how our new insurance is going to impact me, my business and my future employees."<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY photos / Monitor staff)
  • Linette Handschumaker of Bedford. Non-profit business management.<br/>"Was there going to be some competition so we would have enough choice to make a difference in the premiums that we pay given that the scale of the market is somewhat smaller in New Hampshire."<br/>"The biggest change will be learning about the law and actually being able to use the exchange."<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Steve Robinson of Loudon. Owner of Checkmate Payroll.<br/>"Probably the biggest change is going to be to decide, number one, for our employees, are they going to be better off buying the insurance through the exchange, getting the subsidies if they qualify."<br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Robin Stevens, of Goffstown. Owner of Sensible Orthotics. <br/>"The reason I came today was to find out more about how our new insurance is going to impact me, my business and my future employees."<br/>"Can I afford to pay for the insurance? What are my costs? Basically it's all about costs and how it's going to impact my business."<br/>"For me it's hard because I'm looking to hire, but I also need to know what I have to do for those employees. What is my responsibility to them?"<br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • JoAnn Kasper of Weare. Owner and Director of Little Buttercups Nursery School.<br/>"As a small business, the cost is obviously going to be high on my list of 'What would it cost me, what's it going to cost them' and everyone is going to have to have it."<br/>"I wanted to know what's going to be affordable for them. How is it going to benefit them and the cost-share, what will the company have to pay and what can I offer."<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

JoAnn Kasper stays up nights worrying about how much it would cost if she offered health insurance to the 11 employees of her Weare nursery school. Karen R.J. White and her husband are the only employees of their Weare consulting company; they would like insurance but don’t have it.

Lee Berard wants to add workers at his architecture firm in Bedford and knows he could attract better candidates if he reinstated the health insurance he had to eliminate during the recession. He just doesn’t know where to find an affordable plan.

They were just a handful of the more than 250 people who attended a free seminar at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester yesterday to ask questions about the Affordable Care Act of state and federal officials and insurance company representatives. Organizers had expected only 50 to 75 people. In addition to the 290 who registered, more watched the presentation via a live stream online, said SNHU spokesman Steve Boucher.

Kasper, White, Berard and their peers had lots of questions. The questions ranged from what to do about employees who move to other states to whether employers had to cover workers’ spouses to whether companies with more than one corporate umbrella should count all employees together.

White felt she didn’t get an answer to the question about employees who move. As for the second question, the experts said employers don’t have to cover spouses, just dependents.

Dave Rondinone does accounting for Sumner Printing in Somersworth, which employs 36 people. The same company also owns a new restaurant with 14 employees, and both companies are set to grow in the next year.

“I don’t think anything’s going to change in the next year, but I’m more comfortable now knowing I’m not missing something that I’m going to be penalized for,” he said, after learning that the companies can count their employees separately and stay below important thresholds in the law. “We’re going ahead with growing as fast as possible, but I needed a more clear picture.”

“I came because I’m trying to avoid, or in some cases eliminate, confusion,” said John Packard, CEO and president of BTS Patriot, a metal-working company with locations in Dover, Laconia, Portsmouth and Tennessee.

The company already offers health insurance to its 116 employees. But when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, “I don’t really know what it is, what it means for us, what do you have to have in your plans. It’s all been a moving target, and I don’t think anybody knows,” Packard said.

Even yesterday’s experts couldn’t answer many of the audience’s questions because federal officials are still writing the rules that will govern many regulations in the health care reform law. In some cases, rules won’t be done until 2018, eight years after the first provisions went into effect.

Something that seems as simple as the definition of “50 full-time employees” can still be tough to nail down, the experts said yesterday. The calculation is determined as much by hours worked as it is people working.

In the first quarter of 2012, nearly 33,000 firms in New Hampshire employed between one and 49 people; 955 employed between 50 and 99 people and 796 employed fewer than 500 people, according to the latest statistics from the New Hampshire Employment Security.

“I’m sure most of you walked in here thinking 50 was just the number that came after 49 and before 51, and you’re leaving not sure of that anymore,” said Jodie Hittle, vice president of sales and marketing for Northeast Delta Dental.

Companies above the 50-employee threshold have to offer coverage that costs less than 9 percent of the employee’s income. If the coverage is more expensive than that, the employee can seek a plan on the statewide marketplace. If the employee qualifies for a tax credit subsidy to pay the premium cost on that plan, the employer could face a fine for each employee who receives that tax credit. Those penalties were supposed to be effective Jan. 1, but have been postponed until 2015.

Companies with 50 or fewer employees aren’t required to offer insurance and don’t face a penalty if they don’t, but many small-business owners said yesterday they didn’t know that before the presentation. If they do offer coverage to employees, they’re allowed to shop for health plans on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace, where they can customize the coverage and premium support they want to provide.

Twenty-five is another critical number: Companies with fewer than 25 employees, whose employees make less than $50,000 each year, can qualify for a federal tax credit if they pay at least 50 percent of the premium for employees’ health coverage.

“It does make you breathe a little easier knowing we’re lower than the 50-person bar, and we’re off the hook on the fines,” said Kasper, who owns Little Buttercups Nursery School in Weare.

She doesn’t offer health insurance right now, but her next step, she said, will be to talk to the staff and find out exactly who will want to purchase coverage together through the company.

“It all kind of keeps you up nights,” she said. “You want to have something good for your employees, but it is a threat, that dollar amount hanging out there that it could all cost. It’s out of my control and that’s where the fear comes from. Today I feel they put some of that control back in my hands,” she said.

A recording of the forum will be uploaded to the SNHU website at a future date, Boucher said.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

Legacy Comments3

I am more interested in what the Monitor didn't cover than what they did cover on this news story. There is a lot of anger and anxiety out their with ObamaKare. Taxpayers are getting the bill for informing the people about ObamaKare also know the Unaffordable Care Act. Because Obama doesn't have a clue at what he is doing and just winging it no one really knows how it works. So I guess we are going to have to suffer through this train wreck before we find out what is in it. This is a good reason to defeat every democrat running for national office.

Van, you state there is a lot of lot of anger and anxiety out their with "ObamaKare" but then complain about this seminar that was put on to explain some of the program. Why are you not asking for more seminars like this to give out the information. I think your real hope is to keep the public uninformed to keep that anger and anxiety building. I say get the information out and then let the public decide if they like it or not.

Sounds like an informative and helpful forum. As an insurance broker in NH, I have been following Health Care Reform closely and am concerned about a couple details in this article. For determining whether the employer mandate applies, "controlled group" rules must be considered, so I think the Somersworth company with 36 employees plus 14 at an owned restaurant may be subject to the employer mandate (particularly if they grow). Also, the "affordability" threshold is 9.5% of household income, not 9%. Very complicated law with a lot of moving parts.

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