Obamacare and how it affected my business

When the Affordable Care Act hit, we just prayed it wouldn’t hit our company, but it did

What Obamacare means to me is $14,000 out the door.

We are not Walmart. We believe and have always believed in treating our employees with respect. When we hired our first employee, it was a given that we would offer company-paid health insurance. It still is.

Over the years, health insurance has been a headache, every single year. We have seen premiums increase 10, 12, 15 percent a year. We have changed providers, we have changed plans, and we have changed back again. We have asked our employees to absorb higher deductibles. We have self-insured for higher deductibles. Finally, we had to ask employees to pick up another 5 percent of premium costs. Health insurance has been a tedious, expensive, nightmarish pain in the ass.

When Obamacare hit, we just prayed it wouldn’t hit us. We work hard with our agents (The Rowley Agency, who go over the top on our behalf, year after year) to provide the best possible coverage at the best possible price. We have succeeded. We didn’t want or need anyone to tell us how or what to do “better.”

A few weeks ago we got an urgent call from Matt Becker, our account manager. Here’s the deal, he said. You need to change your renewal to Dec. 1. If you wait until your renewal in April, thanks to this and that provision of Obamacare, your rates will go up 30 percent. If you change now, your rates will go up only 15 percent, and you can pray they fix Obamacare before you have to renew again.

So we made the switch, and took an instant hit of more than $1,000 a month. Do more of our employees get coverage? No. Do our employees get better coverage? No. Is health insurance simpler or more affordable? No. Is cash flow going to be tighter? Are raises going to be harder to afford? Are bonus envelopes going to be thinner? You betcha. Thank you, Obamacare.

I am not from the tea party. They represent almost nothing I believe in. The likes of Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, John Boehner? I think they are selfish, mean-spirited jerks.

Yes, health care in America needs to be fixed. Yes, it is shameful that tens of millions of Americans are uninsured, or have to rely on an emergency room for primary care. Yes, health care is too expensive for too many people and companies to afford. There are many, many issues with American health care:

 • There’s too much construction. In 20 years, Concord Hospital has tripled in size and built a dozen outbuildings. All that construction, hundreds of millions of dollars, has to be paid for. But unless I’m missing something, their patient base has increased less than 10 percent.

 • There’s duplication of services. New Hampshire has a half-dozen “regional” cancer centers. And there are a half-dozen more in and around Boston.

 • There are expensive, unnecessary procedures. When my wife had a kidney stone and the x-ray machine was down, an x-ray that would have cost $400, the hospital ordered up a $5,000 CAT Scan.

 • There’s the outrageous cost of malpractice insurance and litigation, because Harvey Garrard and thousands like him tell you, again and again and again, on TV, radio, billboards, to sue over a broken hangnail.

 • There’s corporate selfishness. Giant companies with giant profits deny even basic benefits to their employees, dumping them into the public health system.

 • There are drugs and the cost of drugs. Addressing conditions, many of which are preventable, prescriptions can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year.

 • There’s the cost of becoming a doctor. The average new doctor graduates with $170,000 in med school debt on top of college debt. So young doctors are pushed toward the most expensive specialties, and discouraged from primary care where they are most needed.

Yes, there are a lot of issues with American health care. A lot of issues that can be addressed through sensible law and public policy.

But that’s not Obamacare. Obamacare doesn’t address any of that. As far as I can see, Obamacare doesn’t do a damned thing to improve health care. It just costs me and my employees 14 thousand bucks a year. For which we receive … nothing.

J. Mark Lennon is CEO of IRN – The Recycling Network, Concord.

Categories: Opinion