Florida business owners wonder what health care law means for them

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauJanuary 15, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE — As the Legislature decides whether Florida will implement certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act, businesses of all sizes are also grappling with the impacts of the law.

There are new standards for insurance plans offered by employers, requirements that employees buy insurance and penalties for those who don't comply.

It doesn't help that the state has avoided making certain decisions, one business owner told a Senate panel on Monday.

"We need you to study this matter expeditiously and bring us more certainty as an employer," said Kim Williams, president of Marpan Supply Co. in Tallahassee. "What are we going to do?"

The Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as a similar panel in the House, is studying whether Florida should expand Medicaid and create a health exchange under the law.

Most of the discussion has focused on what the health care law could cost the state financially. This week, legislators are hearing from business leaders about what the law means for them.

"I've got to tell you that I'm thoroughly confused, and I don't know what it's going to cost me next year," Williams said.

He said his company will continue offering its employees insurance as it always has, but other businesses are considering the alternative. A new catchphrase is "pay or play" and describes the choice between complying with the requirements to provide employees insurance or voluntarily paying the penalties.

Kevin Reynolds, a partner at the Daszkal Bolton accounting firm in South Florida, said some companies are weighing the public perception risks of dropping their current insurance coverages.

"We've heard the comments about pay or play as it relates to large employers," Reynolds said. " I think again while that could be a good fiscal decision as mentioned earlier, that it's not always maybe the best (human resources) move or the best strategy going forward."

TECO Energy's Brad Register said the company's existing health care plan lines up well with the Affordable Care Act, but the Tampa company of roughly 10,000 employees and retirees will still see impacts.

For example, a provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents' insurance has increased plan enrollment by 6 percent.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he hopes the committee will have recommendations by early March to guide the state through the implementation process.

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