The local Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event at the Community Center was designed to educate corporate and municipal leaders about the impact of the new federal Affordable Care Act on their businesses and organizations. But many of the plan's details remain unknown, including premium costs.
Companies with more than 50 employees must adhere to new mandates, according to forum leaders Patrick Prichard of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Laura Appel of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
Mark Lulofs, vice president of manufacturing for West Michigan Molding in Grand Haven, said he was disappointed to learn his company may be in line for a penalty under current conditions.
“That's one of the things I'm kind of irritated with,” he said. “Our insurance has always been top of the line, better than most. It does look like there will be some penalties unless we make some changes.”
According to a flow chart presented at Tuesday's forum, if any employees have to pay more than 9.5 percent of their family income for the employer's insurance coverage, the employer would pay a penalty.
Even though the average employee pays between $20 and $30 per week as their portion of the cost of health insurance coverage, with the company kicking in an average $490 per employee per month, some West Michigan Molding workers may not meet the 9.5 percent cutoff, according to Lulofs.
“We'll be at 10.5 percent or something like that,” Lulofs said. “I'm a little disappointed because I always thought we had such great health insurance at West Michigan Molding.”
Consumers will have a choice whether to keep their current health insurance coverage or buy into an “exchange,” also known as a health insurance store, according to Appel, vice president of federal policy for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
Workers with no insurance must buy in, or face penalties of $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater. Those penalties jump to $325 in 2015 and $695 by 2016.
Depending on their income, some consumers will be eligible for federal government subsidies to help pay premiums.
Patrick Prichard, director of Upper Peninsula operations for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said he expects insurance costs to go down as people get healthier.
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