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Area businesses confused about Affordable Care Act

BY JIM HALL

A survey of local business leaders shows that many are confused about their responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act. Or as Susan Spears described it recently, “We tend to feel like it’s chaos.”

Spears, president of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, told a community forum last week that she surveyed her members recently to see how they felt about the new health care reform legislation. Fifty-five of  1,200 members responded to her request.

The sample was small, but the responses are instructive, Spears said. They showed that business leaders are confused about the law. To illustrate, she read from their responses. Question after question tumbled from her survey forms.

For example:

*How many full-time employees can I have before I have to provide insurance?

*How many hours must an employee work before he or she is considered full time?

*Which government agency is responsible for directing me to comply with the act?

*What is the minimum health plan that I’m required to provide?

*How can I minimize the cost while still complying with the act?

“Business doesn’t have the answers yet,” Spears said. “Right now we have a lot of questions.”

Many of the provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act have gone into effect. But major portions of the law start next year and in 2014. These include new online insurance markets, requirements for many people to have health insurance or pay penalties, and requirements for larger businesses to provide coverage for their workers or face penalties.

The chamber will attempt to clear up some of the confusion about the law with a free forum, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 17, at 8 a.m. at the Fredericksburg Country Club. Lindsey Waters, vice president at First National Brokerage Corporation, will lead the discussion.

Jim Hall: 540/374-5433

jhall@freelancestar.com

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