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July 10, 2013

Lawmakers say delay in Affordable Care Act illustrates problems with plan

CULLMAN — State legislators remain uncertain about the local impact of delaying a key Obamacare provision requiring companies to provide employees coverage.

State representatives Randall Shedd and Mac Buttram and Sen. Paul Bussman all shared the opinion Monday that the Obama administration’s decision to hold off on the employer mandate until 2015 illustrated what they called the “many problems” with the law. The Affordable Care Act originally required companies with 50 or more full-time employees to offer health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014, or face stiff penalties.

“To me, the decision to delay indicates the whole package was not thought through well, and now that the federal government is beginning to implement these changes, they’re seeing all the problems associated with it,” Bussman said. “I think we’re going to see more delays.”

Although businesses now have more time to comply with the new law, Alabama still faces the Oct. 1 deadline states have to set up health care exchanges for uninsured individuals to enroll with private insurers. However, last year Gov. Robert Bentley said that Alabama has no plans to establish an exchange or expand the state’s Medicaid program, opting instead to leave the exchange issue up to the federal government.

“There’s a lot of confusion about the law, among businesses and the states,” Bussman said. “We’re not going to set something up in Alabama unless we know exactly what we’re doing. That’s why we need the federal government to clarify the law.”

Buttram said local companies that fall under the coverage requirement have told him they may trim their staffs to be exempt from the provision. Smaller companies with fewer than 50 employees can pursue coverage through the exchanges.

“I’m happy businesses have another year to figure things out, but on the other hand, it means companies are going to spend another year in limbo and probably delay expansions and hiring,” he said.

Bussman, who has a dentistry practice in Cullman, said another point of concern is how medical practitioners will handle the implementation the law. He believes doctors will be inundated with patients at a time when access to medical care is a major problem across the country.

“Everyone wants to provide good quality health care for people, but this is not the way to do it,” Bussman said.

The Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010 to help provide medical insurance coverage to 15 million uninsured Americans.

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