As they learned more about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many members of the Pennsylvania Economy League shook their heads in disbelief.
They listened as Timothy Shrom, business manager for the Solanco School District in Lancaster County, explained the challenges facing employers during a forum Tuesday afternoon.
"It's not the end of the world, but this is going to be a very long process," he said.
The Affordable Care Act will go into full effect Jan. 1, and it further complicates a health care system that was already very complex and expensive, Shrom said.
The law requires employers to provide health insurance to employees working 30 or more hours a week, which has already started to create a negative impact, he said.
Employers have started to reduce hours, allowing some employees to work no longer than 29 hours, to avoid the costs of providing health care, local leaders said.
"There's an immediate impact on workers who can afford it the least," said Bob Jensenius, vice president of the York County Economic Alliance.
The Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010 by President Barack Obama and was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer, has generated some unintended consequences, Jensenius said.
"It's hurting the folks the people who passed it thought it would help," he said.
YCEA members are "very concerned" about the implementation of the law and will host events throughout the remainder of the year to help ready local employers for the impending changes in January, Jensenius said.
Shrom's presentation reinforced how complex the law is, he said.
"It's also going to be expensive when you think of what it will cost in legal fees and insurance just to comply with the rules," Jensenius said.
The biggest thing an employer or employee can do to help themselves during the transition is to get informed, Shrom said. "This is going to be a 10-year process, and we're just at the beginning," he said.
He advised consumers to check websites of health insurance providers and brokers to learn about the law and how to comply.
Potential challenges include hefty penalties, preparation strategies and an excise tax associated with the health care law.
"It's a moving target. As soon as we figure out one thing, the rules will change," Shrom said.
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