The new health care law means small-business owners in Wisconsin have important choices to make about offering health insurance to their employees.
Business owners across the state are trying to figure out which requirements apply to them and how they'll respond, the Press-Gazette Media reported. Many say they're not finding it easy to get the information they need.
"I've been to at least five seminars," said Dean Day, the owner of Day's Bowl A Dome in Wausau. "Most were of no value to me at all until the Wisconsin Business Alliance held one. It was upbeat and positive and they answered every question."
Part of the issue is that the Obama administration delayed for one year a provision that requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide health insurance or pay a penalty. But that doesn't mean businesses can ignore other provisions of the law.
"Some employers believe the whole thing is delayed a year. It isn't," said Scott Austin, who runs the employee benefits and life insurance division at Johnson Insurance in Racine.
Businesses below the 50-employee threshold can choose to drop coverage and have their employees go through the individual Health Insurance Marketplace. Those that don't offer coverage but want to could do so through the Small Business Health Options Program.
Some small businesses are renewing their current plans before new mandates in the health care law become effective Jan. 1, Austin said. That gives them another 11 months or so before they see the full impact of the law.
That's what Russ Styczynski is considering. He owns two businesses in Howard — SMT Machine and Starting Point Daycare — and under the terms of the new law he has to combine them when determining his number of employees. That means he has 51 employees.
He said he had no plans to trim workers' hours to get under the 50-employee minimum, but he might renew his current plan so he has another year to figure out what to do.
The maze of new rules, formulas and taxes left him frustrated about the new law.
"I hate it," he said bluntly.
Bob Pietroske owns the Pietroske GM car dealership in Manitowoc, which also has more than 50 employees. He said he can't afford to pay any more for insurance than he already is, but he's withholding judgment on the new law until there's a clearer picture of how it will work.
"Until we get the real details, we don't know anything about it," he said. "There are a lot of stories, but they're just stories."