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: 03/07/2014
A roundup of scores from today's boys district basketball tournament games:Continued ...
Benzonia woman accused of prescription fraud
A Benzonia woman faces a felony charge after authorities said she fraudulently obtained hundreds of prescription pills.Continued ...
Panthers roar in regional final
Tim Reznich is hoping Frankfort can have a reunion with Nicole Marshall. And history says the Panthers may very well do that.Continued ...
Dispatch: Smart911 worth the price
An online service that gives Grand Traverse County 911 responders potentially vital information about callers cost taxpayers almost $19 per call in its first half-year of operation.Continued ...
TC native joins Team Blake on TV's 'The Voice'
Ryan Whyte Maloney finally can spill the beans: he’s a bona fide contestant on “The Voice.”Continued ...
Editorial: Beach testing grant exposes state's lack of commitment
The issue: GT Band to fund beach testing program for 2014. Our view: Grant points up state's failure to act.Continued ...
Passengers wrongly told TC airport was ‘closed’
Len Price and his family just wanted to get home. The Traverse City resident, 72, his wife, Linda, and son Logan were headed home from a Montana skiing vacation March 1 when weather caused long delays to their United Airlines flight.Continued ...
Pastor sues former church over contract
A controversial pastor’s public schism with his former church moved into the legal realm.Continued ...
OTP revives 'Sound of Music' after 20 years
Kathy Verstraete unearthed some familiar artifacts while she packed her mother’s home two years ago.Continued ...
Letters to the Editor: 03/07/2014
Where was Snyder?; Time to fight back.Continued ...
Building Permits: 03/07/2014
Building permits issued in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
Frankfort coach elected president of coach association
A pair of girls basketball victories and a regional championship weren’t the only things Tim Reznich won this week.Continued ...
McBain captures Class C regional title
McBain rebounded from a poor shooting performance in the first half to overtake Beaverton and secure a 61-44 decision Thursday in a Class C girls regional championship game.Continued ...
And the Oscar (contest) goes to ...
Holly MacAulay did her homework and it showed when she her Oscar contest entry landed among four with perfect scores.Continued ...
The Record: 03/07/2014
Assumed names issued in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
Downtown boat ramp hits bump
A plan to redesign a Boardman River boat launch in Traverse City is temporarily grounded because some local environmentalists weren’t consulted about changes.Continued ...
Back to school — for parents
Traverse City area parents will have a chance to go back to kindergarten at Grand Traverse Academy on March 13.Continued ...
Former TC student teacher returns as singer-songwriter
Josh Rose found musical inspiration in some unusual places growing up on a sheep farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.Continued ...
Weekend in Brief: 03/07/2014
"Pure A Cappella" showcase; Mel Larimer concert series continues; and more.Continued ...
NMC's Birmley Road observatory open to public tonight
Two realms of science fascinate all types of people, regardless of age, said Jerry Dobek, a science and math instructor at Northwestern Michigan College.Continued ...
Night Life Calendar: 03/07/2014
What's going on after dark:Continued ...
Sports in Brief: 03/07/2014
Coach Mike Krzyzewski is out of the hospital and at practice with No. 4 Duke after feeling light-headed during a loss at Wake Forest. (Plus more)Continued ...
Movie Capsules: 03/07/2014
New this week — 300: Rise of an Empire — Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.Continued ...
Community in Brief: 03/07/2014
Mexican Dinner Party benefit; Titan Student Choreographed Dance Concert; Grand Traverse Humanists meet; A Matter of Honor (AMOH) event; and more.Continued ...
- Poll: Does state set aside enough money to test beaches?
- High School Sports Scoreboard: 03/07/2014