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.
Flight returns to Cherry Capital
TRAVERSE CITY — A Delta Airlines flight returned to Cherry Capital Airport minutes after takeoff because of a problem with the plane's landing gear.Continued ...
Arts & Entertainment in Brief 04/18/2014
Fairy Garden fun; environmental documentary; benefit for ISLAND; New Opera Project premiere; and more.Continued ...
Community in Brief 04/18/2014
Gathering for women named Linda; Wings of Wonder program; Small Plates on the Leelanau Wine Trail; and more.Continued ...
Night Life 04/18/2014
Entertainment in the region.Continued ...
Prep Sports Scoreboard: 04/11/2014
A roundup of prep sports results from across northern Michigan:
GT Academy founder faces bank fraud, tax evasion charges
Grand Traverse Academy co-founder Steven Ingersoll faces federal charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and tax violations, accusations that publicly surfaced about a month after the school severed ties with his management company.Continued ...
Editorial: Recent BATA changes put accountability first
The Bay Area Transportation Authority is undergoing some needed accountability changes that should improve service to some while rewarding others for playing by the rules.Continued ...
TCL&P resists coal dock pressure
Traverse City Light & Power board members withstood heavy lobbying and allegations of closed-door maneuvering from influential local groups to place the $2.68 million coal dock property’s future in the hands of the city’s elected representatives.Continued ...
New zombie flick set in northern Michigan
Most days Brian Dawson is a mild-mannered veterinarian. Others he’s a flesh-eating zombie.Continued ...
Derrer to play at Syracuse
Dakota Derrer won’t have to be one of the boys anymore. But now she’ll have to resist the urge to hit like one.Continued ...
Career Kickstart kicks off today
Job seekers can get free professional clothing and lots of advice on resumes and interview skills at an event today at Northwestern Michigan College.Continued ...
High schools among most challenging in U.S., state
Local students have the opportunity to attend two of the most challenging high schools in the nation, based on the Washington Post’s annual rankings.Continued ...
School gets ATM
TBA Credit Union installed an automated teller machine at Traverse City West Senior High School.Continued ...
Letters to the Editor: 04/11/2014
Enabling the homeless.Continued ...
TBAYS set to celebrate silver anniversary
Fred Haines had a vision. He also had passion and determination. And on any given day in the spring or fall, if you gaze out at the expanse of soccer fields at the Keystone Road Soccer Complex and see hundreds of kids kicking balls around, you are able to see it all spring to life.Continued ...
NMC administrator off to China for student recruitment
A Northwestern Michigan College administrator is off on another trip to China with hopes of recruiting high school students from Beijing to enroll at NMC their senior year.Continued ...
The Record: 04/11/2014
Assumed names filed in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
Life after 'The Voice': Maloney out but not down following cut
Ryan Whyte Maloney is out but he isn’t down. The Traverse City native and “The Voice” contestant was cut from the show Tuesday after making it to the top 20 on Monday.Continued ...
Forum: TC can't get bed tax, visitors centers can
I am writing to comment on the March 29 Another View: “Local tax a local windfall” about Franklin County in New York state seeking state approval to impose a bed tax on hotels and motels in that county, and your Online Poll question asking readers whether such a tax is a good idea.Continued ...
Kalkaska's Will Noble headed to the next level
This season Will Noble took his game to another level. That’s allowed him to take his game to the next level.Continued ...
Building Permits: 04/11/2014
Building permits issued in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
Saturday festival all about dirt and Earth
Mara Penfil likes dirt. She likes to remind people that leaves fall from trees and turn into dirt, mushrooms grow in dirt, all kinds of organisms make a home in dirt.Continued ...
Bums add Wrenn, Rossi to infield
The Traverse City Beach Bums added to an already fairly loaded infield by signing shortstop Taylor Wrenn and infielder Drew Rossi.Continued ...
Weekend in Brief: 04/11/2014
Celebration for Pete Seeger; OTP Studio Theatre stages police drama; Dirt Fest; and more.Continued ...
Prep Sports Roundup: Morgan, Cvengros pitch Glads to sweep
Gabby Morgan pitched a two-hit shutout as St. Francis blanked Benzie Central 10-0 in the opener of a non-league doubleheader Thursday. (Plus more)Continued ...
- Flight returns to Cherry Capital