November 9, 2013

New Hampshire business owner backs reform, drops coverage

But she gives raises to her employees to cover half of their costs for health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

By Holly Ramer
The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — A small business owner who once vowed to always offer her employees health insurance is dropping their coverage because of the federal health care overhaul law, but she says they will save money and she will give them raises in place of her previous contributions.

Nancy Clark, who owns an advertising agency in North Conway, and other members of the Health Exchange Advisory Board described their experiences at their annual meeting Friday.

Last year, the White House featured Clark on its blog touting the small business tax credit she received under the law and describing her commitment to offering health insurance to her eight employees.

But she’s now telling them they will have to purchase individual plans instead because an employer-sponsored plan would cost 14 percent more through the new marketplace or 39 percent more outside the exchange. Individual plans will cost 13 percent less, and Clark said she will continue to cover half the cost by giving workers raises instead.

Ultimately, both she and her workers will save money, she said, though she is disappointed that she will no longer officially be providing health insurance.

“I’ve been a huge proponent (of the Affordable Care Act) because I really believe health care should be a right, not a privilege for those who can afford it,” she said. “So as long as I’ve had a business, I’ve always offered a mechanism for health insurance, always.”

Even in the worst times of the recession when we were turning down the heat and shutting off the lights, I never put health insurance on the chopping block. I couldn’t do that. So now, I’m putting it on the chopping block, but I’m still going to pay for it.”

As for her own coverage, Clark said she tried to enroll herself and her family through the healthcare.gov website but was told her application was denied. No reason was given, she said, and a call center worker told her she would have to file an appeal.

New Hampshire opted not to set up its own online insurance markets under the law but has partnered with the federal government to manage plans and provide consumer assistance. Much of that consumer assistance is just getting underway, but a delay in federal funding and problems with the federal website have kept many people from enrolling in insurance plans. The CMS spokeswoman told the advisory board that officials expect the vast majority of users to be able to complete applications by the end of the month.

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