As a cancer survivor and a business owner, I thought the affordable healthcare act could be both a blessing and a burden. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and faced costly treatments, one of my big worries was losing my health insurance and having a pre-existing condition that would not be covered under a new plan.
Indeed, Blue Cross Blue Shield did increase Sunrise Ford’s premiums at what I felt were exorbitant rates. The company forced me to put additional employees on the plan, even though they could not afford the premiums. I had undergone a double mastectomy, completed 8 very toxic chemotherapy sessions and was sitting outside of Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach waiting for one of 32 radiation treatments when I had to once again haggle With Blue Cross Blue Shield over rate increases.
I was fully aware that my treatments were not only painful—but also very expensive. So I knew our group health plan would suffer, right along with me. At Sunrise Ford, employees pay for half of the cost of the premium for themselves and/or their family. The company pays the rest.
So the good news with Obamacare was that I could not be dropped from Blue Cross Blue Shield because of my expensive Cancer treatments, nor could I be prevented from using a different company because of a pre-existing condition. What I wasn’t sure of is what effect Obamacare would have on my company since Sunrise Ford has more than 50 full-time employees, requiring me provide health insurance.
Since I already provide coverage, I figured it would not make that much difference. But a recent story in Scripps newspaper had me perplexed. Other business owners said they would try to avoid providing insurance by cutting employees hours. The owner of a Vero Beach insurance company said he would rather pay the $2,000 per employee fine rather than offer health insurance.
Too me health insurance is now a necessity. Healthcare costs are now so high it is hard to imagine being able to pay out-of-pocket for a chronic illness, a life-threatening disease or even a few days in the hospital. Healthcare has now taken a toll on our economy from the high cost of Medicare to the prices of providing care to the uninsured. Indeed, the inability to pay in medical bills is the leading cause for bankruptcies in United States.
Right now at Sunrise Ford we have a variety of plans that range from $442 a month for a single employee to as much as $2,246 for the “Cadillac” coverage of a family.
Under Obamacare, I would continue to provide coverage and would be required to provide limited subsidies to lower wage earners. The law says that an employee can’t pay more than 9.6% of his or her income for healthcare. So a Sunrise Ford employee earning $20,000 dollars a year would pay a maximum of $1,920 a year. Sunrise Ford would pick up the rest of the tab. A basic insurance plan of $400 a month would cost a total of $4,800 per year. Sunrise would have to pay $2,880 not much more than the $2,000 penalty insurance company owner and Vero Beach was willing to pay. And it’s certainly much less than Sunrise Ford is paying now to subsidize those with more expensive plans.
Furthermore, insurance companies now are limited in how much they can hike their rates. And as an employer I can see how much Blue Cross Blue Shield pays each year in expenses and compare that with what Sunrise Ford pays in premiums—which I learned this summer was a great bargaining tool.
Instead of charging a double-digit rate hike as they first proposed, I was able to get them to reduce the rate by 6%. I know it will be years until we know all of the ramifications of Obamacare. But for now I am not that worried. In fact, I can feel nothing but relief that Blue Cross Blue Shield can no longer drop me whenever it wants.