Tom Still: For small businesses and entrepreneurs, some year-end advice on health care

Matthew Gonnering, the chief executive officer of Widen Enterprises, isn’t the kind of boss who wants his employees to go without health-care coverage. If nothing else, he explained at a recent gathering, offering health insurance helps attract and retain the kind of talent necessary to run his tech-related business.

However, rising health care costs and the advent of the federal Affordable Care Act combined to make things more complicated for Gonnering and his team at Widen, a digital asset management company in Madison.

As Gonnering told a recent meeting of the Wisconsin Innovation Network, Widen was faced with a 12 percent rate hike in 2014 for its existing coverage, modifying its coverage to share some costs with employees, or ending company-sponsored coverage and letting workers fend for themselves on the federal government’s health insurance marketplace “exchange.”

In the end, Gonnering said, the company elected to keep its existing coverage plan with employees sharing in premium payments – something they didn’t pay in the past. That will continue for at least one year while the company waits for the small business side of ACA, or “Obamacare,” to sort itself out.

“We felt we could remain competitive with employees, in addition to the wellness plan that we had… without having those employees get nervous or worry about switching jobs,” he said.

That story is typical for small businesses across Wisconsin and the United States as the Affordable Care Act inexorably begins to change how those companies, and millions of individuals, shop for health care coverage. As 2013 rolls to a close, many wonder: What’s our next step if we want health care coverage in the year ahead?

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