Health Care Reform What It Means to You

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the sweeping new health care law signed by President Barack Obama in March, will likely not directly affect most of the mom-and-pop stores in the jewelry industry, experts say.

The law offers a variety of incentives and penalties to prod businesses to offer health insurance to their employees. For businesses with fewer than 100 full-time employees, including sole proprietorships, the law will create, by 2014, nonmandatory state-run insurance pools or exchanges. (The official title is SHOPS, Small Business Health Options Programs.) The Congressional Budget Office estimates that small businesses that use these exchanges will see premiums fall between 1 percent and 4 percent.

Until the exchanges are established, businesses with less than 25 full-time employees that make an average of less than $50,000 will be eligible for tax credits if they underwrite employee insurance. After 2014, those credits will be available to businesses that offer insurance through the exchanges.

Beginning in 2014, businesses with more than 50 full-time employees that don’t offer health insurance to their workers will pay a penalty starting at $2,000 per employee a year. However, the company’s first 30 employees are deducted from this penalty payment calculation. (So, a company with 60 employees would pay the penalty for 30 workers.) The penalties kick in only if workers seek insurance through a government subsidy or exchange.