Obamacare: Businesses prepare, adapt

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO)-- Local business owners are still trying to sort out exactly what the Affordable Health Care Act, or "Obamacare," means to them.

Businesses nationwide and here onthe Western Slope are laying out plans for how to handle the new mountains of paperwork. The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce has formed a committee to study the law, and inform businesses how they can prepare for its impact.

Meanwhile, lawyers and accountants are looking for the most cost-efficient way to deal with it. Business owners say it's a noble but confusing law.

"We're working with Community Hospital to see if they can help us out with some of the paperwork and some of the administration of it," said Rob Hanson, owner of Hanson International in Grand Junction.

His company has just under 50 employees. Under Obamacare, companies who have 50 or more full-time employees and don't provide health insurance will be penalized.

"It could inhibit growth. It could get to the point where we're better staying at 49 and staying where we're at, which is not what you want to do, but if that's what the system requires us to do, we'll do it," added Hanson.

For many companies, the uncertainty worries them the most; no one really knows what to do.

"I hear people talk about dropping healthcare completely, and paying the fine. I hear some businesses say they're just going to pay their employees a fixed amount of money, and they can go out and get their own insurance from off the state's plans," added Hanson.

Obamacare is also forcing company accountants to change their game plan.

"In 2011, if you generated 250 or more W2s, you are beholden to report that on the employee's W2, their year-end statement of their earnings; that has to be on there," said Nina Anderson, owner of Express Employment in Grand Junction.

Next year the required number of W2s drops; each year under the new law, it's going to get lower as it's implemented.

"At this point, that is not taxable, and you're still able as an employer to offer that as a pre-tax contribution, but we're a little hesitant because what does that mean if we're going to have to report that on a tax statement? What is that going to mean in the future?" asked Anderson.

If businesses don't grow, they can't create more jobs, which some worry could leave the economy just crawling along. Aside from payroll, healthcare is the biggest expense many businesses face.

"Something had to be done with healthcare. I don't know if this is the answer to it, or was the answer to it," said Hanson.

The United States Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate portion of Obamacare, which requires all individuals to purchase health insurance.

The court did not uphold that the states would be required to expand their Medicaid programs, or else lose federal funding. Meanwhile, several federal government agencies are beefing up their staff to handle the full implementation of the law in 2014.

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