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N.M. Rep: Obamacare Threat To Insurers

By Thomas Garcia, Quay County Sun, Tucumcari, N.M.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 03--A tax forcing residents and small businesses to purchase health insurance, could lead to gaps in coverage and a decline in insurance providers, according to a local legislator.

"This law is a solution to a problem, which is not as wide spread as they have lead us to believe," said State Rep. Dennis Roch.

On June 28, U.S. Supreme Court upheld he Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which supporters say will make quality, health care affordable to Americans.

Supporters of the health care law say the there are several perks written into it for New Mexico's residents: It will allow young adults under the age of 26 to stay on their parents' insurance plans.

Seniors on Medicare received a rebate to help cover prescription costs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. Those with private health insurance will longer have to pay a deductible or co-payment for preventive care like physicals, cancer screenings and vaccinations.

However, some skeptics say the law comes with catches; if you do not qualify for Medicare, then you must purchase health insurance on your own or through an employer. Small businesses that meet requirements would have to provide insurance to their employees. Failure to obtain or provide coverage will result in being fined or taxed.

These new federally-mandated requirements have raised concerns with Roch and a local small business owner.

Roch said instead of increasing the opportunities to obtain affordable health insurance coverage this new health care law may have the exact opposite effect. He said before an individual who wanted to buy insurance would visit a local agent and get some quotes from different companies.

"Now, the federal government will step in with a list of rules and requirements insurance companies will have to follow," Roch said

Roch said some of those rules include; not turning down coverage for those with a pre-existing medical condition or suffering from a critical illness. He said they will also look to limit the premiums insurance companies can charge.

"Simply, they will have taken away the insurance company's ability to run a profitable business," Roch said.

Roch said insurance companies will begin to see their payouts exceed the revenue brought in by the premiums they are allowed by federal law to charge. He said a loss in profits may result in one or more companies deciding to fold up shop and opt out of the coverage business altogether.

"This is what happens when government gets involved in the private sector," Roch said. "It can often lead to companies being driven out of business."

With the state the economy is in, it's a bad policy to tax citizens for not having health insurance, said Yvonne Braziel, co-owner of Del's, Kix on 66 and Rocking Y's restaurants.

Braziel said while the three restaurants generate a profit, it is not large enough to cover the operating cost and overhead and provide health insurance to all of their employees.

She said she is paying $500 a month for her own health insurance and is not sure she can afford to follow this new reform.

"It could very well result in a drastic reduction of our workforce," Braziel said.

Braziel said she has not studied how many employees a business must have to fall under the requirements of this new law.

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(c)2012 the Quay County Sun (Tucumcari, N.M.)

Visit the Quay County Sun (Tucumcari, N.M.) at www.qcsunonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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