The business end of new health care law

SEATTLE -- As we’ve seen with the new health care law it provides more choices for individual coverage, but businesses have to weigh the choice of whether or to not provide coverage and risk losing employees if they don't offer a health care plan.

Fremont bakery shop Pie has survived the recession. Owner Jess Whitsitt’s has expanded to two locations, a food truck and 30 employees. She’s let them all know about their new healthcare options in writing, which is required by law. As a small business owner she doesn’t have to provide coverage for her workers, but she’s doing what she can.

“For my managers I can afford to give you a $150 stipend a month, for my lead bakers I can do $100 -- I can’t afford to cover them completely, but I can at least help them,” Whitsitt said.

Opinions about the Affordable Health Care Act differ among business owners.

Suzie Burke, owner of Fremont Dock and a property management company said her insurance companies told her that covering her workers will cost more under the new law.

“Both of them say it’s probably going to be 20 percent more than it was last year -- we’ll get back to you as to what we can do. And bear in mind what we can do is probably give up vision care. I don’t like it. I’m small business and I’d rather make my own choices,” Burke said.

Many employers are frustrated by the new law. The rules are so complex that special navigators have been hired to help people understand them.

Under the health care act, smaller businesses get better tax breaks to help cover costs. But firms with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance for all employees who work 30 hours or more a week or face a stiff fine. That rule has been so problematic, it’s been pushed back to 2015. But many companies are already cutting people’s hours to avoid providing coverage, something that has lead to strike votes by grocery and dairy workers here in Washington.

What does this mean for you? First, read the stuff you’re getting from your job. Talk to your boss or HR person continually about what’s going on from the company’s perspective. Make sure you get straight answers because there may be changes coming that they’re not aware of yet.

About 80 percent of Americans will notice no change whatsoever to their coverage. But if the new law does apply to you, you can go the website for more information: