Health care mandate hits more small businesses: tips for localizing the story

by January 22, 2016

Photo taken from Ilmicrofono Oggiono on Flickr

Photo taken from Ilmicrofono Oggiono
on Flickr

Some small business owners in your area may be unprepared to comply with requirements of the Affordable Care Act for the first time.

These business owners got a buy for two years, but Obamacare, as of Jan. 1, requires businesses with 50 to 99 full-time employees to offer health insurance to their workers and their dependents. The regulations for larger employers kicked in last year, while businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.

The enrollment period for buying insurance began Oct. 31, 2015. That’s given most local businesses owners enough time to analyze how the new requirements will impact their businesses.

Reporters can localize the story, like Kevin McKenzie, of The Commercial Appeal, in Memphis, Tenn. did by using U.S. Census data to track how many local businesses the new rules impact. McKenzie reported that fewer than 5 percent of businesses in Memphis had 50 to 99 employees in 2013.

The new rules also require more detailed reporting requirements for small business owners, including filing tax forms detailing the cost of their coverage – which may require some small businesses to hire additional staff. Companies that try to sort through the regulations without outside help may find the process time-consuming.

Track down local employers affected by the new rules to find out how much of an impact they expect the new rules to have on their own businesses. That’s also a great photo opportunity with a local business.

Joyce M. Rosenberg with the Associated Press interviewed national human resources experts, and found that many anticipate the new rules to be “a nightmare” for at least some businesses across the country. Like Rosenberg, you can find local human resources experts in your own market to provide an accurate picture of what trends they see locally.

A survey by The National Federation of Independent Business found that 8 percent of businesses with 50 to 99 employees did not offer health coverage in 2015.

You may even be able to find state-level data like Ben Sutherly of The Columbus Dispatch. He reported that 4.3 percent of employers in Ohio didn’t offer health coverage in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

You may find that most businesses of that size are already offering coverage, like Blaire Emerson of The Bismarck Tribune. Emerson found only a few local businesses will pay the $2,000 per employee penalty rather than offering coverage.