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.
Bums fall in extra innings
Ben Waldrip made up for his ninth-inning gaffe with some 10th-inning heroics.Continued ...
You're Needed: 07/19/2014
Volunteers are needed for Harbor Days in Elk Rapids.Continued ...
Blood Drive Calendar: 07/19/2014
Area Blood Drives: American Red Cross —Ellsworth, noon-5:45 p.m., July 22, Ellsworth Community Building, 6520 Center St.Continued ...
Community in Brief: 07/19/2014
Museum garage sale; DAR anniversary; Auditions set. (Plus more)Continued ...
Body & Soul in Brief: 07/19/2014
Ride for Father Fred; Arcadia Daze luncheon; Autism awareness. (Plus more)Continued ...
Education Newsmakers: 07/19/2014
The following local seniors were named Kiwanis Club of Traverse City Students of the Month:Continued ...
Letters to the Editor: 07/19/2014
Not a ‘disorder’; Homeless, cherries; Win the primary first.Continued ...
Charter school board will consider legal action to get $1.6 million
Grand Traverse Academy officials are trying to find out more about the $1.6 million that’s owed to them by their federally indicted founder and head of their former management company.Continued ...
Homeless death disclosure draws dissent
Traverse City police officials defended their decision to withhold public disclosure of a homeless man's slaying, and said they'd do so again if similar circumstances arise.Continued ...
GT County sues jail inmates over fees
Grand Traverse County is headed to court in an effort to collect money from county jail inmates.Continued ...
Hogs to ride for Father Fred
It began when some local hogs decided to throw a few bucks in a hat and take a ride for a good cause.Continued ...
Road work planned across GT County
Motorists should expect traffic delays at several locations in Grand Traverse County in the upcoming week.Continued ...
Futures File: Downed jet prompts increase in commodities
The crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight in Eastern Ukraine killed all 298 people aboard. Initial fears that the plane had been shot down were supported by intelligence agencies, sparking concerns the crash could signal a deepening of the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists.Continued ...
Ag Forum: Signs, signs, understanding signs
“I don’t know what that sign means, but I like it.” This is the common feedback Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) technicians receive from local wineries.Continued ...
Mancelona man dies in crash
A Mancelona man who rode an adult tricycle down U.S. 131 died when a vehicle struck him from behind.Continued ...
Filing deadline nears for TCAPS board candidates
The petition-filing deadline for candidates interested in sitting on the Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education is Tuesday, and only four have filed to fill five open seats.Continued ...
Cyclist dead in Antrim County crash
A cyclist died after a vehicle struck him along an Antrim County road.Continued ...
Sidewalk cafes face season-long ban
Downtown restaurant owners will have to closely monitor their sidewalk cafes this summer under a proposed ordinance that could strip violators of their outdoor dining perk for an entire season.Continued ...
E. coli drops to safe level at local beach
Swimmers can once again enter the water at the Sayler Park beach on East Grand Traverse Bay without worry about E. coli bacteria.Continued ...
Mental Wellness: How the world sees you
I recently took an assessment that focuses on how the world sees me. This gave a unique perspective, unlike other assessments that teach us more about how we see the world.Continued ...
Church thrift shop closes doors
Betty Hammond trolled for treasures in First Congregational Church Thrift Shop first as a daughter. She returned as mother to young, fast-growing kids — the thrift store kept clothes on their backs without breaking the bank, Hammond said.Continued ...
It's opening day at Northport Creek Golf Course
Nearly three years in the making, the 9-hole Northport Creek Golf Course opens for play today.Continued ...
- Friday, July 11, 2014
Chelsea Lajko named National Cherry Queen
Chelsea Lajko has been named the 2014-2015 National Cherry Queen.Continued ...
Mixed margins for festival vendors
Stephani Beauchamp is having her slowest year yet selling gluten-free granola and cookies at the National Cherry Festival farm market, but on the other side of her booths Julie Millen’s cherry goods practically leap into customers’ hands.Continued ...
Winners announced from R-E drawings
Petersburg resident Keith Labadie claimed the grand prize in a drawing among visitors to the Record-Eagle's tent at the National Cherry Festival. Labadie won a gift certificate for $100 from Cherry Republic.Continued ...
- Bums fall in extra innings