Monday, December 10, 2007

Missives From Massachusetts: Dogged By Paperwork

Time to take the pulse of health care reform in Massachusetts again as their universal health care plan is phased in. This time the Berkshire Eagle provides us with some views and interviews from the state's small businesses.

According to the state's new laws, every employer with eleven or more full time equivalent employees must offer a health plan or be fined. Small businesses in Massachusetts are grumbling about the additional workload caused by complex calculations and paperwork required to comply with state law.

Gary Kolbran, of Wheeler & Taylor Insurance was one of several people interviewed in the Eagle's article. He addresses, among other things, Section 125 plans that allow employees to set aside pretax money from their paychecks to pay for health expenses and insurance.

"All along, I feel like the government has made it extremely complicated," Kolbran said, as with the Section 125 plans, which he called an "elegant way to get part-timers to pay less for their health insurance, but they didn't think about the ramifications on small businesses. I'm sure General Electric has a (human resources) department that can handle this. A small business does not."

Although the state spent money marketing new health plans to people and informing them of the mandate, it did very little outreach to small businesses, leaving that task to trade associations and chambers of commerce.
The transition to the new systems is rocky at times, as unexpected ramifications come to light. One state program that has come to an end under the new reforms is having impact on many small businesses now that they can no longer use it to claim an insurance subsidy both as an owner and an employee of the same business.

In addition the Retailers Association of Massachusetts is pushing for the ability to purchase insurance in bulk for its members, something not currently provided for. Association President John Hurst calls the current situation discriminatory, creating a situation where premiums are far lower for big business than for small ones.

The road to universal health care would seem to be well paved, but you should still keep an eye out for potholes.

SOURCE: "Business owners pay the cost of health care
Paperwork, fees piling up" 12/10/07

photo courtesy of chrisscott, used under this Creative Commons license

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