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Businesses need help deciphering the Affordable Care Act

Jerry Deschane is the president and owner of Deschane Communications LLC, a lobbying, consulting and communications firm specializing in the construction industry.

By Jerry Deschane

Now that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, employers and employees are realizing they have to consider many more options — some good, some bad, but most just different.

They also are realizing there are not many experts capable of guiding the way.

Small businesses with bare-bones insurance plans — or, in other words, companies in the residential construction industry — almost certainly will have to restructure their benefits packages. Finding out that the promise, “If you like your plan, you can keep it,” might not be true is just one of the surprises in store for employers and employees.

I’m one of those 50-somethings who should benefit from the ACA. I’m a new sole proprietor with a pre-existing condition.

So I recently spent three hours listening while an insurance expert walked me through the ins and outs of the post-ACA world. It was as painful as it sounds, and I am almost as confused as I was before the session began.

If you’ve been through it already, you have my sympathies. If not, you’re in denial like the rest of the business world. But your day is coming.

Political conservatives and liberals should put down the torches. I’m not going to debate the wisdom or folly of the ACA.

What really matters is that businesses across Wisconsin and the nation have a whole new set of options to consider. The ACA has changed the employee benefits game, and it is twisting and bending the health care market in expected and unexpected ways.

The winners will be those companies that come up with the most creative new solutions. The losers will be the ones that wait around for someone to tell them what to do.

And the greatest challenge might be finding a real expert to help. To truly understand the effect of the situation, you need expertise in health care and tax law. Federally trained “navigators” can help you with HealthCare.gov, but most businesses need to know more than how to “Click here and enter your Social Security number.”

What businesses are going to need in this ACA universe is an advisor who is equal parts insurance salesman and tax accountant. A number of trade associations are moving into that gap in creative partnerships, creating portals to walk employers through their options as easily as possible.

But so far, nobody has hit on the perfect small business health care model. There are just too many options and unknowns.

If you bought yourself a year by renewing your group plan now, before the big changes begin, congratulations. But if you’re smart, you’ll start thinking now about what you will do at the end of that year.

And when you get it figured out, call me.

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