Small-business owners face tough decisions and great uncertainty as health care reform rolls out in the next 10 months.
Companies now offering health insurance to a workforce of 50 or fewer employees can choose not to offer plans in 2014, when many provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act take effect. If they don't, workers may be able to buy coverage from a public insurance marketplace.
That decision is technical and riddled with potential penalties and taxes, local health care and insurance experts said during a recent panel discussion for local human resource and business leaders.
Small-business owners worry how the new law will increase the amount they pay for plans they now offer, said John Urbanek, a senior sales and marketing vice president for the Florida Blue insurance carrier.
"They don't want to be the first to make a move," he said.
Higher employer costs and more costly employee premiums are a big concern for businesses of all sizes, said Mark Weinstein, CEO of Independent Colleges and Universities Benefit Association. But small companies also are wary of what not offering insurance could mean to full-time workers they want to attract and retain.
"It's too much of a part of the employer's total strategy," said Weinstein, whose 23 clients include the University of Tampa and Saint Leo University.
The results of these decisions could be just the start of many "unintended consequences" triggered by the law commonly known as Obamacare, said Jeff Lowenkron, chief executive officer of the University of South Florida Physicians Group.