Business owners ponder the Affordable Care Act

When Zoe Smith passed out a form with information about the new healthcare marketplace to her 20 employees, she wasn’t sure what would happen. “I don’t think it’s going to have much of an effect, because I already offer coverage for my employees,” said Smith, owner of Zoe’s Cookies, a popular bakery located near the Richmond Marina. Only a few of Smith’s employees currently take advantage of the company health plan. So far, her workers are still weighing their options.

Other Richmond business owners echoed Smith’s uncertainty about what the Affordable Care Act will mean for their bottom lines. Since last week, small business owners and individuals in Richmond have been able to shop for health insurance policies on the new California Covered marketplace. Because the law is so new, many haven’t had time to review it yet.

Joshua Genser, a partner at Genser & Watkins Attorneys-at-Law in Point Richmond, said he expects the cost of health care for his three-person office to increase, but he isn’t concerned about it. “In general I’m in favor of the Affordable Care Act, so I’m willing to suffer a price increase,” Genser said.

But Genser’s firm may also qualify for support under the new law: The Act offers tax credits to many small businesses that give employees coverage.

Employers can compare insurance plans and find out what fits their company by visiting Covered California’s small-business webpage. Insurance packages fall into one of four categories: bronze, silver, gold, or platinum. Employers can also decide if they will provide dependent coverage.

Businesses with 50 or more full-time employees may have to pay the government if they are not offering enough heath benefits. According to, this will only be an issue if the employer’s coverage is not “affordable” and does not “meet minimum value.” On the other hand, there are no penalties for companies with fewer than 50 employees that do not provide insurance.

The Small Business Association and Small Business Majority are offering free webinars every week in October to help business owners understand how they are affected by the Affordable Care Act.

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