The Affordable Care Act and you: Part 4

By Eric Greene

November 11, 2013 Updated Nov 11, 2013 at 10:22 AM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- Employer Mandated Coverage under the Affordable Care Act has been delayed until January 2015, however a deadline is quickly approaching for all business owners.

On October 1, employers must notify their workers of whether they have insurance coverage or not.

For some local small businesses that means examining whether they and their employees would be better off in the government exchange marketplace.

Health insurance has always been a perk, a way to attract applicants as well as retain employees.

Now, two small businesses, one private and one public, are both examining if what they are offering employees still works.

Bonnie Jones is Executive Director of Tazewell-Woodford Head Start in East Peoria. The agency is federally-funded and has faced cutbacks due to budget sequestration.

Jones oversees 40 full-time staffers, all of whom are offered insurance through Blue Cross-Blue Shield.

"I don't know if it’s because we're a small business, but every year the premiums go up and the insurance benefits go down,” said Jones.

Jones said Head Start pays $7,600 a year toward each employee’s premium. Still, she said, it’s not working.

"I have employees who can't afford to use it because they can't afford the deductible or they can't afford the out of pocket. So they're not even benefitting from us paying $7,600 for benefits,” she said.

Tami Meischner defers to her insurance agent when questions about ACA come up at her family's Liberty Termite and Pest Control in East Peoria. They have nine full-time staffers and pay more than half of the premium for their employees.

Liberty's current policy comes up for renewal in eight months and Meischner said what concerns her most is a substantial rate increase.

"They tell me that your younger folks are going to increase incredibly on insurance,” said Meischner. “I have younger folks who work here. So that's what scares me, for them, for me, because I do pay a percentage for them, but for them as well. That affects their paycheck."

While Meichner's workers may not have to explore the options available in the government marketplace, Bonnie Jones at Head Start said with more sequestration cuts coming, she is encouraging her staff to check into the exchange options and see if those benefits and those costs are better than what they are able to provide as a small business.