Jennifer Maier of Lake Wylie went to Washington, D.C., this week, one of 40 business people invited to a White House Business Council briefing to discuss the Affordable Care Act.
Maier listened, asked just one question – didn’t get an answer – and returned home Tuesday, humbled, but filled with frustration.
The presenters were well versed in the policy of President Barack Obama’s health care initiative, she said, but lacked “real world” business experience.
Maier is the president and chief executive officer of WDS, a warehousing and distribution company with operations in 16 states and Canada with headquarters in Clover.
“The speakers were engaged in their projects, optimistic where it is going,” Maier said Wednesday. “They said the next two years would be hard for everyone, that change is hard, but worth it in the long run.”
But business can’t operate with six months – much less two years – of uncertainty, she said. “You can’t plan like that.”
The uncertainty, she said, weighs upon her and those she employs. “Ninety-five people are dependent on me. That’s huge,” Maier said. “Ninety-five different families, people’s lives. ... I’m responsible for these people.”
Maier said she offers “better-than-average wages and a better-than-average health care plan” that she and her employees pay for.
As the Affordable Healthcare Act rolls out, Maier wonders if her current insurance provider will continue to stay in business. Her coverage is not an easy task as it has to not only meet the federal requirements but the rules in 16 states.
She also has to make sure that the cost paid by employees is not more than 9.5 percent of their “annual household modified adjusted income.” If an employee’s cost is more than that threshold, the health care coverage is considered unaffordable.
“What can I do?” she asked. “Do I increase just their wage? What is the effect on other workers?
“I could pass the burden onto them, but that’s not what I want to do.”
Maier won’t have to act immediately. The Obama administration said businesses with 50 to 99 employees have until 2016 to comply with the provision they offer employees insurance.
Maier’s question to White House and administration officials was how they derived those thresholds. “How did they get that magic number?” she asked. “Fifty doesn’t mean that you are profitable.”
She said the reply to her question was, “That’s not our department. We will try to find out the answer.”
Maier also wanted to know why the administration is measuring its success on the number of people enrolled in health care policies. The issue is so much more than just numbers, she said.
She hopes to get an answer to that, and other questions, as participants in Tuesday’s meeting were asked if they wanted to continue with the process.
Maier’s answer is an unqualified yes.
“It’s rewarding to be part of the process,” she said, and just maybe have a small effect on the outcome.
Nonetheless, Maier’s hope is tempered. “I’m not sure how much things will change.”