Affordable Care Act Strategy for Small Businesses
Carla Corkern has almost 20 years of experience in science and technology and is currently Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board at Talyst, Inc. of Bellevue, Washington. Talyst is the leading provider of acute care hospital pharmacy automation software and hardware, and is building innovative systems to service long-term care facilities and correctional institutions. Prior to Talyst, Carla helped build several highly-successful technology companies, most recently as COO at Vykor, Inc. She also served as a key executive for Netegrity of Waltham, Massachusetts and DataChannel, Inc. of Bellevue. Carla founded and ran her own successful Systems Integration company in Dallas, Texas before moving to the Pacific Northwest. She holds a B.S. in technical communication from Louisiana Tech University, and conducted graduate work at Southern Methodist University.
How should small-business owners deal with the Affordable Care Act?
Well, I believe in doing the math – and I think that’s a wonderful initial step. Run the numbers. See where you come out. You might be surprised.
I also think you have to understand the demographics and the competitive landscape before making decisions.
But, one way or another, you’re going to have to grapple and wrestle with a whole new set of problems and solutions – so don’t expect an 11th-hour reprieve.
Let me get more specific – so I can be more helpful.
If you’re a small-business owner, and you currently provide insurance to your employees, ask yourself if it now meets the requirements for a qualified health plan under the Affordable Care Act. Two key variables that matter are minimum essential coverage and affordability. Ask your broker, and ask your insurance agent. If you’re not meeting the requirements, you need to start shopping now.
If you’re a small-business owner, and you don’t currently provide insurance to your employees, but you want to do so, you really need to understand the micro details and data surrounding your employee demographic population and what the rough costs will be for buying insurance on the new health exchanges.
Part of this is cost analysis – will your employees be able to get better coverage on the exchanges at a better price than you can give them? If so, you might consider some other ways to reimburse employees for insurance costs. Unfortunately, if you have a wide range of incomes in your workforce, the individual benefit or burden can vary widely.
I also suggest that small-business owners look carefully at the availability of expanded Medicaid in their state as well as the levels at which employees may be able to receive government subsidies. We discussed the pet food retailer earlier, and the take-away from that story was that just getting a handle on the options for employees can bring remarkable clarity to the picture.
The exchanges have been gummed up a bit since they launched, but the glitches will be worked out and small-business owners need to browse and understand what’s being offered to their employees in these marketplaces. Some state exchanges will also sell to small businesses, and that is well worth exploring for the sake of price comparison.
I really recommend that small-business owners look into subsidies and tax credits that their companies can receive by providing coverage.
One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is the ability for businesses that already provide health insurance to their workers to receive a tax credit. But to qualify for a small- business tax credit of up to 35% (up to 25% for non-profits) of premium contributions through 2013, a company must have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees; pay average annual wages below $50,000; and contribute 50% or more toward employees’ self-only health insurance premiums. More than 170,000 small businesses have claimed credits to offset the costs of health coverage, but an estimated 1.4 million to 4 million employers could be eligible for the incentive.
I have to be honest, though. This is probably not going to be a huge sum of money. And, in terms of subsidies, I would say that these are tricky and might not be worth the paperwork, especially because they are only funded for two years.
Finally, small-business owners have to be able to discuss this issue with several key audiences.
Start with a trusted advisor. The conversation has to revolve around the moral obligations of providing employees with health coverage in addition to the financial realties of the business.
Another discussion might involve colleagues and competitors – what are they going to do about employee health care?
Keeping your ear to the ground on what your industry, or what other businesses in your town, are planning to do will help guide you – especially when it comes to the talent war and your ongoing ability to attract great employees that will help you compete and win in the marketplace.
Lastly, I can’t emphasize how crucial it is for small-business owners to educate their employees about the new health care dynamic and the decision to provide or not provide coverage.
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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.
It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.
Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.
Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.
The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.
It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.
In their findings the authors state:
"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."
With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
- Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
- Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
- We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
- If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.
There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:
"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.
This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.
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