Rick Beechy figured it was a morning well spent.
The owner of Goddard School preschool in Green was among business owners and executives attending a free seminar Friday in Akron on the Affordable Care Act, the federal health-care reform law commonly called Obamacare.
The forum, at the Global Business Accelerator downtown, was organized by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Beechy learned that small businesses with fewer than 25 employees — while not required to offer employer-provided health care — can receive federal tax credits for doing so.
“I had never heard of the credit at all,” said Beechy, who figures he could be eligible for a credit of more than $10,000 next year.
Beechy said he has long been offering his employees insurance. He said it’s the right thing to do, and he wants to remain competitive when trying to attract employees.
He didn’t learn about the tax credits until Friday. And he got an added bonus, learning that for tax year 2014 the credit will increase from 35 percent to 50 percent of employer contributions to health insurance. The credits are available to those with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees.
The Affordable Care Act “has been so confusing” for small businesses, Beechy said. “We don’t have the human resources departments that big companies do.”
Jim Duffy, with the Cleveland district office of the Small Business Association, stressed to those at the seminar that the health-care law generally does not penalize those employers with fewer than 50 workers who do not offer coverage. That’s 96 percent of all businesses in the United States, Duffy said.
The act, however, does include what is called an “employer mandate” that applies to companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees. These employers who fail to provide coverage will be required to pay a penalty as a check against free riders and to provide a funding stream to help with subsidies available in the exchange.
Duffy noted that earlier this month the Obama administration again pushed back the compliance deadline for companies with 50 to 99 workers. Now these employers are not subject to penalties until 2016.
Most companies with 100 or more workers already provide health insurance.
Duffy also pointed out various provisions of the law already in effect. They include:
• Small businesses with generally 50 or fewer employees have access to marketplaces — which the federal government and state governments have established — to buy group insurance plans. For information on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), employers can visit http://signup.healthcare.gov and click on the Small Businesses link.
• Employers are required to provide employees with a Summary of Benefits and Coverage form explaining what their insurance plan covers and what it costs. Information is available at www.dol.gov/ebsa/ healthreform.
• Under the act, insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care. No more than 20 percent is to be spent on administrative costs. Insurers who do not meet this ratio are required to provide rebates to policyholders.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.