WILLIAMSTOWN -- Holly Taylor, Vice President of True North Insurance Agency, recognized she was given a challenge when asked to summarize healthcare reform in a mere 15 minutes.
As the keynote speaker at Wednesday's Berkshire Chamber of Commerce Good News Business Salute breakfast at the Williams Inn, Taylor outlined what local businesses can expect from changes in the Affordable Care Act.
"It is an immense, complex piece of legislation and each day we see it unfolding with unintended consequences for businesses, individuals and the government," Taylor said.
One hundred people gathered to hear Taylor speak, and to share good news about Berkshire County businesses.
Vice President of Commercial Lending at TD Bank, Gwen Davis, who served as the master of ceremonies, told attendees that "Holly is on the front-line" of health insurance issues facing employers through her roles on several statewide boards, including the Massachusetts Association of Health Underwriters and the Brokery Advisory Board to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
One piece of controversial legislation that's been delayed until 2014 is the employer mandate, Taylor said, which affects businesses with more than 50 employees. The act proposes making 30 hours a benchmark, meaning an employee working 30 hours would receive an employee contribution equal to an employee working 40 hours.
This piece will most likely be the "sacrificial lamb" to keep other pieces of healthcare reform, she said. Democrats have filed an amendment to make the eligibility 40 hours.
"If that goes through ... we imagine the feds will default to states, so a state like Massachusetts could keep a richer benefit of 35 hours," she said.
Penalties for businesses that don't comply will also be delayed, Taylor said. The act specifies a $2,000 penalty for each employee if the employer doesn't offer a health plan.
Taylor said businesses will also pay more money in 2014, as a 2 percent increase in premiums will be tied to the healthcare reform.
North Adams based Ecu-Health recently received a state grant to be the region's health navigator, Taylor said. The organization will be responsible for helping households who fall under 400 percent of the federal poverty level by working to determine eligibility and choose a plan.
Attendees and Berkshire Chamber officials also saluted three local businesses: Hillcrest Dental Care Inc., MOLARI Employment & Healthcare Services, and Guido's Fresh Marketplace.
The Pittsfield-based Hillcrest serves nearly 100 patients a day and 9,500 patients annually, Davis said. The practice is expanding into a new office at the North Adams Regional Hospital annex, a move that brings several new jobs and more than$500,000 in salaries to Northern Berkshire County.
MOLARI Employment and Healthcare Services is celebrating its 30th year, Davis said. The business is committed to matching professional, knowledgeable employees with their clients need, she said.
In addition, Guido's Fresh Marketplace, in Pittsfield, was recognized for implementing an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) program. The device checks the heart rhythm and, if needed, can send an electric shock to restore normal rhythm.
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