TRAVERSE CITY — When it comes to health insurance, Tim Norkowski can't win.
He lacked insurance when he went to Munson Medical Center's emergency room two years ago with chest pain.
Now he's stuck with a $4,000 bill and no diagnosis to show for it. The tests were too pricey, he said.
The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help uninsured folks like Norkowski. Yet his company recently used the law to justify cutting his full-time hours to part-time, come May.
"I'm a little bit bitter about it," said Norkowski, 57, of Grawn, who is no fan of President Barack Obama, who spearheaded the law.
Companies with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees must pay health insurance for full-time staff in 2014 or a $2,000 fine per employee, minus the first 30.
Some Michigan employers are making pre-emptive moves before the law kicks in. But they don't have to, said Brett Williams of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, a nonprofit.
Williams explains the new health care reform law to businesses around the state. Once companies learn the details, they realize the law may not have a big impact on them, he said.
Norkowski, 57, is employed by CSM Cleaning Services, a Grand Rapids company that provides janitorial services to Kingsley Area Schools. The cut in hours also will affect six co-workers, he said.
"They told us, when it does go into effect next year, the federal government can go back six months and fine them for the six months it wasn't in place," he said.
Not true, Williams said. The law does have a "look back," period that affects only new 2014 hires, who work a flexible, hourly schedule. An employer can collect up to 12 months of the new employee's work history to determine if he is part-time or full-time.
"They're stepping over a dollar to save a dime," said Williams.
Studies consistently show a healthier workforce means higher productivity and lower absenteeism, he said.
Steve Latimer, co-owner of CSM Cleaning Services, said the company is exploring its options and hasn't made a final decision on downsizing hours.
"To be honest with you, none of these laws and regulations are definitive," he said. "We can't make decisions based on something unknown, so we are looking at all options and letting our employees know."
The number of companies that will feel the ACA's impact isn't clear, as area agencies lack statistics.
But there is anecdotal evidence that residents are feeling the pinch.
Sandi Hill, a home health care worker, just saw her hours cut from full-time to 25 hours. She works for Integrity Home Health Care of Northern Michigan, the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce's 2011 Small Business of the Year winner.
Hill, 55, said she and her hourly coworkers had little notice their hours would be cut in mid-January. She earns $9.40 an hour, and the news was devastating. Hill said she is divorced, and temporarily supports her daughter, 28.
"I worked really hard to get caught up with the bills, and now I'm going to drop behind again unless I can find something else," she said.
Tammy Tarsa, Integrity's owner, did not return phone calls for comment.
Hill said she'll receive underemployment benefits, but they're not enough.
She is angry with the federal health care law, which she says hurts working poor the most.
"It isn't fair to us," said Hill, an L.P.N.
She also fears the government will fine her if she doesn't buy health insurance next year.
"She's not going to get fined," said Don Hazaert, director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare. "The ACA requires you to purchase insurance if you can afford it. There are multiple waivers, and one is affordability."
Hazaert said the ACA will financially challenge the home health care industry with its narrow profits.
"That's not the case with Papa John's, who has been in the press lately about laying off people," he said. "... it would cost them 2 to 3 cents on a pizza to provide benefits."
There's a difference between employers who will truly struggle and those who exploit confusion to cut payroll, he said.
"That's deplorable from our perspective," Hazaert said.
TRAVERSE CITY — When it comes to health insurance, Tim Norkowski can't win.
High School Sports Scoreboard: 02/28/2014
A roundup of prep sports scores from across northern Michigan, including results from today's girls district basketball finals:Continued ...
UPDATE: Lake Ann man dies from crash injuries
A two-vehicle crash along a wind-whipped section of highway in Benzie County's Inland Township claimed the life of a Lake Ann man.Continued ...
Lake Ann man dies in U.S. 31 crash
LAKE ANN — A Lake Ann man died from injuries received in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 31 in Benzie County. Munson Medical Center personnel pronounced Daniel Beechraft, 41, dead on Thursday at 4:45 p.m., hours after his van crossed the highway's centerContinued ...
Frigid temps don't set record in TC
TRAVERSE CITY — The biting cold that chomped down on the region during the past 24 hours was extreme, but not enough to set a record. Temperatures recorded by the National Weather Service dipped to minus 18 degrees in the Traverse City area just befoContinued ...
Letters to the Editor: 02/28/2014
Safety is at stake; An excellent job; Give 4th its own day.Continued ...
Michiganders head south to escape winter
Chuck and Carol Forwerck usually escape the long, cold Traverse City winter and take a Caribbean cruise in March.Continued ...
Grow Benzie offers website help
Grow Benzie is hosting a series of workshops for owners of new, growing and potential startups to learn about getting small businesses off the ground.Continued ...
Lockwood taking part in U18 U.S. Nationals
Traverse City Central downhill skier Lily Lockwood is competing in the U18 U.S. National Championships.Continued ...
'Blusion' is headed for TC
She calls it “blusion” — fusion of blues, jazz, boogie-woogie and country — and Deanna Bogart is bringing it to the Milliken Auditorium.Continued ...
Parents scramble for care options
The latest round of miserable weather prompted Traverse City Area Public Schools officials to cancel classes for the 10th time this winter, leaving working parents with school-age children scrambling for child care so they could get to work.Continued ...
Bellaire caps 20-0 regular season
Bellaire capped a perfect regular season Thursday with a 53-50 overtime win at Onaway.Continued ...
Building Permits: 02/28/2014
Building permits issued in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
Traverse City native flexes hip-hop rhyme
No, you can’t get street cred in the hip-hop world if you come from Traverse City. So Blake Selby doesn’t try.Continued ...
Kate Milewski: Oscars are about much more than movies
Every year, my mother and I have a tradition. It usually starts somewhere around Thanksgiving and the best part happens about the end of February, sometimes early March — we watch movies.Continued ...
Grand Traverse County settles open meetings lawsuit
Citizens need not fear being shushed at Grand Traverse County commission meetings.Continued ...
The Record: 02/28/2014
Assumed names filed in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
Suttons Bay boys wrap up Northwest league title
The Suttons Bay boys basketball team captured its first league title since 2010 when it pulled out a 65-53 victory over Glen Lake on Thursday at Suttons Bay High School.Continued ...
Students go global with dishes
Culinary connoisseurs will take a trip around the world with their taste buds serving as guides during a fundraiser at Northwestern Michigan College tonight.Continued ...
Prep Sports Roundup: Cadillac tops Central
Jalen Brooks accounted for 23 points to lead Cadillac to a 48-36 victory over Traverse City Central in the Trojans’ boys basketball regular season finale on Thursday. (Plus more)Continued ...
Weekend in Brief: 02/28/2014
Deanna Bogart Band at the Dennos; NMC Concert Band performs; Central Lake "Chilly Fest"; and more.Continued ...
Suspects charged in 7-Eleven donation jar theft
Two men face criminal charges tied to the theft of a donation jar from a Garfield Township convenience store.Continued ...
Night Life Calendar: 02/28/2014
Entertainment in the region:Continued ...
Movie Capsules: 02/28/2014
New this week — Non-Stop: An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.Continued ...
Funding available for local students
Local students can apply for a host of Community Foundation scholarships and grants.Continued ...
Sixteen swimmers in Junior Olympics
Sixteen swimmers from The Breakers, northern Michigan’s elite swim team, are competing this weekend in the Junior Olympics in East Grand Rapids.Continued ...
- High School Sports Scoreboard: 02/28/2014