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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kathie Chadbourne gathers eggs from her chickens to serve in her restaurant, Third Avenue Bistro, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Most Utah small businesses don’t like Obamacare, try to comply

First Published Sep 22 2013 11:59 am • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:34 pm

Restaurateur Kathie Chadbourne literally jumped for joy in November when President Barack Obama won re-election, but the landing was brutal.

She fell and broke her wrist.

For large businesses (50+ employees)

» You won’t be able to use Avenue H, at least not for now. It may be an option in the future.

» In 2015, you’ll face a penalty if 1) you don’t offer insurance; 2) you don’t pay at least 60 percent of an employee’s premium; 3) the plan you offer doesn’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum standards; or 4) your insurance cost exceeds 9.5 percent of an employee’s household income.

» In 2015, you’ll need to provide information about full-time employee coverage and the cost of the benefits to the Internal Revenue Service.

Source: sba.gov, Avenue H

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The 60-year-old owner of Avenues Bistro on Third in Salt Lake City fretted because she didn’t have health insurance, a fact she’s lived with for more than 20 years.

"I set it up so I can pay [the emergency-room bill] $25 a month, and then I applied for financial assistance from Intermountain Healthcare. Now tell me this isn’t freakin’ nuts," Chadbourne said. "The way I’m dealing with my health care issues is I’m just scooting around in circles."

That lack of insurance is motivating her to figure out a way to find health coverage for herself and 18 employees. And she believes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will pave the way.

"It’s kind of scary looking at the whole deal because it’s extremely complicated," Chadbourne said. "All I know is that we have to do something."

The vast majority of Utah small-business owners — 75 percent — don’t share Chadbourne’s optimism that the health reform law known as Obamacare will make insurance more accessible or affordable, according to a recent survey by the Salt Lake Chamber.

But with 90 percent in the same survey responding that employer-provided health insurance is a top priority for business, most companies are scrambling to learn about the new law and how they can comply.

Here are some basics about the ACA to get small-business owners started.

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Who must comply?

Large businesses must provide coverage that meets ACA standards by 2015 or they will face a penalty.

Small businesses — with fewer than 50 full-time employees — don’t have to provide coverage to their employees. But their employees will need to get coverage or face a penalty. And it’s up to small businesses to let their employees know (in writing) their insurance options by Oct. 1. Sample exchange notice forms are on the Department of Labor website.

There is no fine or penalty for not issuing this notice, but employers who don’t could open themselves to being sued by an uninsured employee who misses the open-enrollment window and then comes down with a major illness such as cancer, said Utah legislative attorney Cathy Dupont.

"I am sure there is going to be some attorney out there who would be willing to take the case," Dupont said. "It’s in all employers’ best interests to send out that notice to their employees."

Small-business owners who want to voluntarily offer coverage to employees can consider using Avenue H.

What is Avenue H?

You may have heard about the state-run Avenue H exchange as well as the federal individual marketplace. To be clear, they are two different animals.

The federally run marketplace at healthcare.gov is where individuals and families can shop for plans on their own. 

The state-run Avenue H is the Internet portal where small businesses and their employees can apply for coverage, comparison-shop and enroll in a health plan. If you’re a small-business owner, Avenue H is where you’ll want to start.

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Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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