Local shipyard concerned about effects of new health insurance tax

By By Doris Maricle / American Press

JENNINGS — Managers at a local shipyard said Tuesday they are concerned about the effect of a new health insurance tax included

in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“It is going to have a huge financial impact on guys like us who have been providing health care to their employees,” said

Christian Vaccari, Leevac president.

The shipyard just a year ago had 100 employees, but it plans to employ 600 people by 2014, he said. It is one of the top five

employers in Jeff Davis Parish.

The increase will affect companies’ abilities to give pay raises or hire additional employees, which would have a ripple effect

on the local economy, Vaccari said.

“We have to consider the impact on our employees because that is who is going to bear the burden,” Human Resource Manager

Charlie Butler said.

Many employers are considering increasing insurance deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, which would reduce take-home pay

for many employees, he said.

Beginning next year, the federal government will charge a new fee on health insurance firms based on the plans they sell to

individuals and companies to help fund health care for the uninsured or underinsured.

Butler said Leevac could pay $250,000 to $850,000 in additional health insurance premiums annually based on 500 employees

at its Jennings location.

“As we go into next year there is a lot of concern about what to negotiate to and what the cost is going to be,” he said.

“We have got to start planning ahead.”

About 70 percent of the employers are looking at increasing deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, he said.

On Tuesday, Butler and other company

officials hosted a small-business tour with members of the local media

and Mark Herbert,

a representative of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office, to discuss

the pending changes in health care. A representative of U.S.

Rep. Charles Boustany’s office was invited, but did not attend.

The meeting was the first in a series

of events planned by the Stop the Hit Coalition, according to

representative Mellissa

Landry. The group will make stops across south Louisiana this

summer highlighting small businesses and entrepreneurs who will

be negatively affected by the tax.

An average employee with a family plan could see a $500-a-year increase under the proposal, Landry said. Individuals could

see a $200-$300 increase.

The coalition website refers to the measure as “a hidden tax on small business” and says it “assesses a tax on all health

insurance companies based on their ‘net premiums.’ ”

“The amount of the HIT that the

insurance company is responsible for is roughly equal to the percent of

the market subject

to the tax that the insurance company covers,” reads the site.

“The larger the insurance company’s market-share, the higher

their annual HIT.”

Large corporations and unions were exempted from paying the fee.

Online: www.stopthehit.com.