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Business leaders: New health care requirements hurting bottom line

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CONCORD -- At a special field hearing at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Concord, local business leaders testified new health care requirements are hurting their bottom line.

"There are going to be serious consequences for business people when this law is fully implemented,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, who called the hearing.

At issue is the cost of covering employees. Any company with more than 50 employees who work more than 30 hours a week is required by the law to provide health insurance.

"95 percent of the businesses in North Carolina are under 50 employees, so there's no requirement for 95 percent of business owners in our state to cover anybody,” said Adam Searing, the health care director at the North Carolina Justice Center.

If the remaining five percent choose not to cover their employees, they have to pay a penalty fee.

But Searing says that's not the most severe consequence if they opt out of coverage.

"You're going to get fewer employees who are willing to work for you,” he said.

Business leaders, however, said that means the only affordable option is to cut back employee hours.

Rowan Cabarrus Community College uses part-time adjunct faculty to teach many of its courses.

"Use of adjunct faculty is the best approach to augment full-time faculty without introducing an unsustainable cost for more full-time employees,” said human resources officer Tina Haynes.

But because those teachers work at least 30 hours per week, the college would soon have to pay for their benefits. Due to state budget cuts, the college says it simply can't afford to do it and will probably have to cut courses.

"And it may slow our students abilities to get degrees if we drop courses from the schedule,” Haynes said.

"Unfortunately, it means that less people are going to have jobs and less people are going to have access to health care through their employer,” Hudson said.

It's a message Hudson plans to take back to Washington.

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