SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

July 3, 2013

Chamber seeks waivers to federal law

Businesses concerned about health care costs

In owning C.P. Berry Construction Co. for the past 30 years, Alan Berry has noticed a trend that is cause for concern for many businesses.

“The cost of health insurance over the past 15 years keeps going up and up and up,” he said.

Now, there are concerns that as universal healthcare across the country is rolled out over the next few years under the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” the cost of health insurance for businesses could increase even more.

Berry said the state currently has a stable and working universal healthcare system, which was implemented in 2006 and served as a model for the federal program.

“Now, they are going to impose a federal system where the cost will go up and provide less,” Berry said.

With other business owners expressing similar concerns, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce is advocating for several waivers to the federal law that chamber leaders say would allow the state to keep important pieces of its own health care reform in effect.

William Tinti, legal counsel for the chamber, said the chamber voted last week to seek five waivers from various provisions of the Affordable Care Act to lessen what they say will be a negative impact on businesses.

“We are not asking to repeal Obamacare,” he said. “We are trying to preserve a system that is working here.”

Some business groups estimate premiums under the federal law could increase 20 percent or more, which could affect both individuals and businesses, Tinti said. The chamber represents close to 1,000 businesses across 25 communities, including C.P. Berry Construction.

“It could be the difference between success and failure for some businesses,” Tinti said. “It is a big hit because health insurance cost is a major expense.”

The Affordable Care Act is a vast law, Tinti said, that could impact individuals, business owners, health insurers and medical device companies as it is rolled out over the next few years.

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