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October 5, 2013

‘The jury’s still out’: Local businesses navigate health care nuances

JOHNSTOWN — It was called the “red tape tower” when it was unveiled on the Capitol. The nearly 3,000 page document colloquially referred to as Obamacare is, if anything, dense.

Although registration for the Affordable Care Act opened at the beginning of the month, local businesses and families will be piecing together its intricacies in the months to come.

“This thing is multifaceted,” said Joe DelSignore, president of Delweld Industries. “I think they got everything thrown in, including the kitchen sink.”

DelSignore said his company – manned by 12 employees – is getting a first-year exemption, as its Highmark Blue Shield plan was renewed before Obamacare took effect. But the rates were driven up about 30 percent, he said, and are expected to rise again next year.

“I’m hoping that that plan won’t go away because of the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

“We’re different than anybody. My employees don’t pay anything for their hospitalization. We take care of it in full.

“I don't think there’s a lot of businesses that are doing that, currently. I’m just hoping we can continue to do that. But, the jury’s still out on this thing.”

Sandy Yeager, of Yeager’s Heating and Cooling, said the new health care mandates won’t be affecting health care for the business’s 10 employees either – at least not that much.

“Right at the moment, instead of us paying 100 percent for employee health care, they may start having to kick in a small percent,” she said. “It’s not like we’ll make them find their own, because they already have.”

She said Yeager’s will be looking at different insurance companies and pricing premiums to find cheaper percentages.

Scott Koontz, owner of S.E. Koontz Software, said he’s been waiting for the Affordable Care Act so he could bring his only employee into his company. He has his own personal health care plan, but registered just to get an exact quote on a federal premium.

He said it was affordable.

“I think for most people, this will be the way to go,” he said. “I think this is long overdue. I think single-payer is the next step.”

The Obama adminstration has stated that the plan relies on an influx of previously uninsured 18- to 35-year-olds to the insurance marketplace.

Since the young and healthy cost less to insure, this tactic would drive down premiums across the board.

DelSignore said he’s not sure if the strategy of drawing in younger buyers to the single-payer system will work.

“When you're that young and in good health, not going to the hospital ... people really don't want to spend their money on health care,” he said.

“If they qualify for it, I guess it’s good for them, but somebody’s got to pick up the tab. Right now, I think it’s going to be businesses and individuals.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/JustinDennis.

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