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.
Cherry Festival offers change to vendor fees
Trevor Tkach walked to the Open Space with one intention. To listen. Tkach, executive director of the National Cherry Festival, huddled Tuesday with a small group of vendors from this year's festival to hear concerns about higher booth fees, and to get feedback on sales.Continued ...
UPDATE: Antrim deputy turns himself in
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Candidates file for NMC, TCAPS boards
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Two pedestrians hit on Division
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Sam's Club stone fruits recalled
A California-based packing company is recalling stone fruit that could be contaminated by listeria bacteria and was sold in stores across the country, including at the Traverse City Sam’s Club.Continued ...
Construction in progress
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Vineyards expect big crop losses
TRAVERSE CITY – Grand Traverse region wineries won't have much to celebrate come harvest time this year. Sam Simpson, general manager of Good Harbor Vineyards in Lake Leelanau, expects to lose 70 to 90 percent of the vineyards' fruit this year. HigheContinued ...
Hearing delayed in child abuse, torture case
TRAVERSE CITY — A judge delayed a preliminary examination for two Long Lake Township residents accused of abusing and torturing a 4-year-old child. Authorities charged Joseph Douglas Frank, 30, and Andrea Ashley Limon, 27, with torture and first-degrContinued ...
Antrim County deputy faces obstruction of justice, larceny charges
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At least two weeks until Maxbauer's can reopen
TRAVERSE CITY — Contents of two coolers, that's all Mark Wilson could salvage after a grease fire broke out in the smoke house at Maxbauer's Meat Market. Wilson, co-owner of the store, was busy Tuesday with Michigan Department of Agriculture inspectContinued ...
Festival celebrates misunderstood wine, region
TRAVERSE CITY – Many casual wine drinkers consider Riesling a sweet, syrupy, simple white wine, but winemaker Bryan Ulbrich knows better. "It's really a transparent grape. It reflects where it was grown more than any other grape variety," he said. "YContinued ...
Riverside Title changing ownership
ELK RAPIDS — The region's real estate market was far different when Rob and Marcy Ford started Riverside Title in 1992. "Elk Rapids really hadn’t taken off at that point, and we had to prove it was big enough to support a title company," said Rob ForContinued ...
Proposed hotel deal a no-go as TCAPS searches for host families
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Dolan to leave NMC
Northwestern Michigan College’s head of public relations and marketing is leaving.Continued ...
- Monday, July 21, 2014
Commissioners adopt cafe ordinance, drop platform dining
John McGee had plans to build a deck that seats 40 people in two parking spaces in front of his Park Street restaurant but those plans will wait as city commissioners postponed action on parking-space platform dining indefinitely.Continued ...
Deputies catch bicycle-riding suspects
Grand Traverse County Sheriff's deputies cited two boys suspected of shoplifting condoms and drinking alcohol after chasing the bike-riding minors through a drive-in restaurant and a mini golf course.Continued ...
Red Ginger to reopen
Pam and Dan Marsh hope for a crush of a different kind when they reopen their Red Ginger Restaurant almost eight weeks after a column collapsed and closed the popular downtown eatery.Continued ...
4-H livestock donations will feed the hungry
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House candidates to appear in forum
The 10 people running in Michigan's most crowded House race will appear side by side to answer questions.Continued ...
Farmers could get money for 2012 losses
Jim Bardenhagen is no different from other farmers across Michigan: late frosts in 2012 destroyed his cherry crop.Continued ...
Deadline to file for local school boards is 4 p.m. Tuesday
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UPDATE: Maxbauer's market closes after fire
More than meat was smoking when a grease fire broke out at Maxbauer's Meat Market. The Union Street store closed Monday after the fire started in the market's smokehouse at about 10:30 a.m.Continued ...
Division, Boughey streets lane closures planned
Commuters on Division Street heading north can expect delays when work crews close one northbound lane to install a new curb at the alley between Seventh and Eighth streets.Continued ...
2014 All-Region Girls Soccer Teams
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Stabenow: Fruit growers get new disaster relief
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says fruit growers affected by extreme weather conditions in 2012 will now be able to apply for new disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.Continued ...
- Cherry Festival offers change to vendor fees