This week marks the opening of New Jersey's health insurance exchange, part of the landmark Affordable Care Act that's changing how businesses and individuals will get covered in the future.
The current economic climate has made it troublesome enough for executives to go about running their businesses, and the federal government has made it even more troublesome through the ceaseless partisan bickering that has ground the machinations of this country into glue. Even today, there are still calls from the lunatic fringe that insist Obamacare can be ended by defunding it, solving the problem for business owners everywhere.
Smart executives realize that isn't the case, but there's a lot of speculation dressed as information out there, and that's a harder line to draw. If you haven't already, here are some steps you need to take immediately:
n Talk to an adviser. You'll never figure out where all the tripwires of the ACA are on your own. If you've put off talking to a planner or financial adviser until now, it's time to get your head out of the sand.
n Talk to your employees. There are plenty of Americans huddled around kitchen tables and home offices now, trying to guess what their health care premiums are going to look like, if they'll get a subsidy and what kind of benefits plan they'll need. They're all going to look to you for answers. Be as open as you can. Provide resources or make an expert available to them to answer questions.
n Beware of turnover. Nice job getting out of the recession without losing too much headcount, but if you offer insurance now and remove it thanks to Obamacare, you're betting huge that your competitors won't suddenly start offering coverage in order to poach your best talent. That's another endorsement for talking honestly with your employees.
n Time may be on your side. If you're a larger employer of at least 50, there's no penalty until 2015 for not offering insurance to your full-time workers. Your employees aren't exempt from penalties, though, so keep that in mind.
The timing is terrible, the bill is flawed and the aggravation is extreme — but none of that is an excuse for being unprepared. Business owners would do well to follow these guidelines as the rollout gets underway.