News & Research Archive

OBAMACARE Strikes A Small Business Nightmare

Dec 25, 2013

 

I run a commercial real estate company and I am also an independent contractor as a commercial real estate broker. I currently have insurance through a small business plan with my wife. Based on my initial understanding of OBAMACARE, I thought that my real estate company would be unaffected, since we have less than fifty employees. I also believed my health plan with my wife would be unaffected since my policy provided me with all the necessary services required under OBAMACARE. I was wrong.

Two weeks ago, my nightmare began. I received what looked like a formal letter in an envelope from Kaiser Permanente, marked with a tag that read, "See if healthcare reforms will affect you." I almost did not open the letter, thinking it was probably junk mail. I was wrong.

The letter in fact canceled my small business plan policy, stating that under federal and state law, small business plans that do not include at least one employee, was no longer legal. It identified ways in which I could now either switch to an individual plan or go onto the OBAMACARE website to seek insurance options. The letter further stated that if my insurance was expiring by November 30th, that I needed to secure new insurance no later than November 15th, which was six days after I actually received my notice. Frankly, I had no idea when my policy was set to expire, so the nightmare unraveled as I made my call that day to Kaiser.

Of course, I went through the various transfer stations, which are common today anytime you call customer service from most organizations. The days of the five-minute customer service calls to learn how to solve your problem and get off the phone is all gone when they eliminated true decision makers on the other end of the phone. I wanted to accomplish three basic things with this call. Firstly, I wanted to confirm that my policy was in fact canceled. Secondly, I wanted to learn my options and thirdly I needed to know when my policy actually expires. Two and a half hours later, I finally got the answers I needed and ended my call.

There are several reasons why the call took so long. The first issue was with Kaiser. If you have a small business plan, then your records will not show up in the individual plan service department. They simply have no record of you. That posed the first major problem, because without knowing when my small business plan was to be canceled, I had no idea when I needed to pull the trigger on my new insurance options. If they had transferred me to the small business department, then my efforts would have had to start again with the individual policy department. This would have meant another ten minutes trying to connect with a real person, let alone connect with someone who had knowledge about what little I was already able to learn from my first counselor.

After almost three hours, what I learned was that my policy actually expires on March 1st of 2014. I will not be able to buy another small business type policy. My choices now are to either buy an individual policy that will cost me about $250.00 per month more than I am paying now for the same services, or I can join my company plan at a cost of $900.00 more per month.

Within one week, I received a half-inch package from Kaiser called the "small business renewal information package" which must have cost Kaiser at least five dollars a piece to send out. I'm not even eligible to apply because I do not have enough employees.

Interestingly enough, the main story capturing the nation is the millions of individual policies that are being cancelled. I have not seen one story about the small business plans that are also receiving notices. If you take into consideration the number of "mom and pop" businesses there are in the United States, it would be interesting to see just how many plans are also being canceled and how much more we are all going to have to pay for this Affordable Healthcare Act. So far, this law does not seem to be at all more affordable to the majority of Americans.

Whether you are a self-employed business owner or an employer, you will need to be insured by 2014 to meet the individual mandate of the Affordable Healthcare Act, according to the NFIB. This is regardless of whether your business falls under employer mandate going into effect in 2015 or not. The lesson I've learned is, don't wait until the last minute to get information on requirements and how to proceed.

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Written by: Hans Hansson

E-mail: hans@starboardnet.com


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 28 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email hans@starboardnet.com or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website, www.commercialspacefinder.com.

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