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Are small companies set for Obamacare?

By: Gayle S. Putrich

July 19, 2013

After a brief, unscientific survey, it seems the U.S. plastics industry is a pretty good place to be working right now, at least from a health-care benefit standpoint.

Just as most of the country was tuning out of work for Independence Day celebrations, the White House announced it will delay enforcing a key provision of its signature health-care law by one year. The decision gives business owners until 2015 to provide health insurance.

Under President Barack Obama's signature 2010 law, companies with 50 or more full-time workers — as determined not by actual numbers but by a complex formula — face a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee if they don't offer affordable insurance.

Immediately I was on the hunt for a relieved plastics processor just above the 50-employee threshold who was looking forward to a few more months of procrastination or a brief reprieve from a painful benefits change.

After all, business leaders from various other sectors, particularly the restaurant industry, had been pleading with the Obama administration to delay or even cancel the mandate.

But the plastics executives I called said they were moving ahead with changes to their benefit structure. Many won't even be affected by the provision, since they already offer insurance and have no plans to drop the coverage.

Some small firms already are self-insured, like rotomolder R&R Technologies in Edinburgh, Ind., and its staff of about 50. Blow molder ProGram Plastics Inc. in Geneva, Ohio, already offers insurance for its fewer than 50 full-time employees.

More than 96 percent of U.S. firms with at least 50 employees already offer health insurance, the White House says.

At Aimet Technologies Inc. in Zebulon, N.C., comptroller Debra Clark said the injection molder renews its health insurance policies in July, so the announcement to delay the new law came just a few weeks too late to matter.

"We already took care of it, not knowing that we had some more time," she said. "But we pretty much were in compliance already." Aimet tweaked its plan to make it more affordable and added a "buy-up" plan for those who want more robust coverage. "We've managed to keep costs pretty much the same all around," Clark said. "I know we won't face any penalties and that was my main concern."

So despite dire warnings from some pundits, many plastics companies seem to be ahead of the game.

Putrich is Plastics News' Washington-based staff reporter.