Affordable Care Act impacting Alaskan small businesses

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by Jessica Gruenling

ANCHORAGE, Ak-- Snall businesses are the backbone of the Alaskan economy. 

 
"Most definitely there's a lot of mom and pop businesses, family run companies where there's 10 employees and everyone's related, and I would say that's what makes up Alaska," Tiffany Stock, Employee Benefits Consultant, Northrim Bank.  
 
Now they're facing tough decisions with the rising cost of health care and for one Alaska small Business, ProComm, the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act is the toughest part. 
 
"The worst part about the way the program is rolling out is that certain things take place in one time frame and other things are in another time frame, so you can never assess the full impact of the law is going to be what the cost is going to be at any given time," Linda Peters, Co-Owner, ProComm. 
 
Peters currently has 14 employees and pays 950 dollars per person in health insurance. Increasing from two years ago at 600 dollars.
 
"We just had to shift the cost of employees dependents to the employee it was really tragic, it was enraging in fact as employers who care about our employees," Peters.  
 
Peters has looked into dropping her insurance plan, but her employees are too highly paid and would not benefit from indiviual plans.
 
"I just can't penalize my employees if I were to drop them from my plan, and I can't figure out where am I going to get the money, it's frightening, what happens next year," Peters.
 
At Northim Benefit Group Employees help find solutions to this problem small businesses are facing, and they says it's not a one siaze fits all conversation. For some companies it is better to drop their health insurance plans. 
 
"That all plays into if your offering coverage as a company is it a good benefit or are you hindering employees being able to a plan at a better cost to them," Stock. 
 
And even Northim is facing the same dilemas as their customers.
 
"We're a small business Alaska owned and operated, so we're kind of facing the same dilmenas all of those companies are facing and it's how do you provide that perfect balance and still provide a good place to work where people want to come," Stock. 
 
Alaskan health insurance rates are much higher than those in the lower forty eight, and one of the biggest questions is why. 
 
"Being here in Alaska it's more expensive to deliver care up here because of the access, so to get an MRI machine it's going to be more expensive, that comes into play as well as the competition up here," Stock.