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Obamacare leaves some Anchorage businesses wary

By Alexis Fernandez 9:05 AM January 1, 2014

“It's too expensive to implement, we literally can't provide its intent because the cost to us is so great."

ANCHORAGE – As pieces of the Affordable Care Act continue to be implemented, local businesses are still trying to figure out what this new law will mean for them.

For the past several months, business owners like Brian Richardson have been anything but worry-free because of the new health care law.

“It’s too expensive to implement, we literally can’t provide its intent because the cost to us is so great,” Richardon said.

He’s the CEO of Immediate Care Inc., a company that provides services to mostly elders who decide to live at home.

He employs nearly 400 people and about half of them work full time. At this time, the company does not offer health insurance, but it did try to before.

“Offered insurance to every single employee — also gave them the option of taking cash-in-hand instead to see what would be best for them and 85 percent of them actually chose to take cash in hand,” he said. “So the expense of managing the other 15 percent was just too much.”

Under the ACA law, by 2015 employers with more than 50 employees could face a $2,000 fine per employee annually if they don’t offer health insurance and at least one employee qualifies to save money on a monthly premium on the Marketplace. Richardson said his business falls under both of these categories.

“It’s going to be a pretty dramatic on the workers, they’re the ones who are going to see the immediate impact, we may have to cut people to 30 hours a week, we may not be able to do certain things — we may not be able to expand,” Richardson said.

He said it would have to come up with $4 million to offer health insurance to everyone — or pay at least a $350,000 fine.

“The majority of our income actually comes from the state Medicaid program, Medicaid dictates what we get paid,” Richardson said. “We have no option of increasing our rates to get paid more.”

The ones who will suffer the most will be his clients, he said.

“The elderly person isn’t going to be able to live with the kind of stability health wise with the stability health wise, socially and mentally that they were getting under the program,” Richardson said.

Small employers with less than 50 people are exempt from the mandate, but could qualify for tax credits on group coverage on the marketplace.

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