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ObamaCare: Is it worth it for local workers?

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(Toledo News Now) -

Even though the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare as it's also known, is scheduled to take effect January 1, it's starting to be felt right now, right here in northwest Ohio.

"My first step was - I've got to cut my budget," said Jeff Vernon, who already lives in a small apartment in west Toledo. Now, he's looking to cut back even more.

Vernon works at the Scrambler Marie's restaurant on Secor Road. He said he's about to have his hours trimmed because of ObamaCare.  He told us the people he works for tried to find a different solution. 

"They were real good about that," said Vernon.  "The last thing they wanted to do was cut people.  They don't want to fire anybody."

We talked to the owner of the restaurant Shane Beukre.  He said any business with 50 or more employees will have to offer insurance to workers with 30 or more hours a week.  If he does not do that, he gets fined $2,000 per employee. 

Beukre told us he's cutting some people down to under 30 hours to help with costs to his business and the workers. 

As it is explained in the new law, under ObamaCare, everyone must have insurance.  So, the next step for workers is to get a plan through expanded Medicaid or through state or federal exchanges that will give them options on plans.  If a plan is not offered through their employer, workers could get a subsidy to help with insurance costs. 

It might be cheaper for individual people to have hours cut and pay less for insurance, but Vernon said he'll lose more than $400 a month with fewer hours and paying for health insurance.

"That leaves me $27.50 for two weeks to live off of," said Vernon.

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel said he sees the Affordable Care Act already cutting jobs and pay because of a "look back" provision.  That means the government will evaluate each business to see who's been working more than 30 hours in the previous three months, six months, even a year in some cases, and then calculate who should be offered an employer health care option.

We asked Mandel if this is just politics he's siding with because he's Republican and the president is Democrat.  Mandel said it's about economics.

"Everywhere I hear, 'We don't like ObamaCare.  We don't like it because it kills jobs.'  And that's what we're seeing," Mandel explained.  "We're seeing full-time jobs go part-time.  We're seeing part-time jobs go to no job."

However, the White House has put out a progress report that shows the Affordable Care Act has already saved senior citizens and the disabled more than $3 billion on prescription drugs, and insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition.

The law will also help those not covered, insurance companies can't drop you when you get sick, it will provide access to free preventive services, and so much more.

Dr. Ken Berkta is the Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Health System, which approves of ObamaCare for many reasons, including a plan for a continuum of care between hospitals, specialists, and family doctors.

"That it's a coordinated journey," said Dr. Berkta.  "That there's clean handoffs...there's a free flow of medical information so that patients and physicians and other caregivers can make the best decision with the best information."

Dr. Berkta did admit there are many uncertainties about how that will work without knowing exact regulations from the government yet.  But when endorsing the healthcare reform, they studied the intended outcomes. 

"The benefits of the Affordable Care Act outweighed the negatives," he said.

Vernon told us the negatives are hitting him now.

"A great job that I had was taken away from me," Vernon told us.  "It was ripped right out of my hands. I wasn't doing great. This isn't a mansion, but I was doing okay."

Berkta told us there are three goals for ObamaCare: Better service and quality to individual patients, a focus on the health of the community, and do it all for less money.

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