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.
FINAL: Joliet 5, Traverse City 2
The Traverse City Beach Bums lost their 2013 Frontier League season opener 5-2 to the Joliet Slammers on Friday night.Continued ...
UPDATE: Beach Bums, Slammers tied 1-1 in 4th
The Traverse City Beach Bums are tied with Joliet 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning of their 2013 Frontier League baseball season opener.Continued ...
Trojans sweep regional meet
It came down to the final event, but when all was said and done Traverse City Central came away with two regional track championships on Friday.Continued ...
Prep sports scoreboard: 05/17/2013
A roundup of high school sports results from across northern Michigan:Continued ...
Parking garage rates to rise
The Downtown Development Authority authorized an increase in transient parking rates at the city’s two municipal parking decks.Continued ...
Ex-Traverse City Manager Lewis to head St. Joseph
The city of St. Joseph picked Traverse City's former Manager Richard Lewis as their next city manager.Continued ...
Festival spotlights science, math
Newton’s Road, a regional nonprofit organization committed to increasing access to and appreciation of learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, continues its Northern Michigan STEaM Film Festival on Saturday.Continued ...
Heroin overdose kills man
Benzie County's struggle with fatal heroin overdoses continues. Authorities confirmed Justin Smith, 23, of Benzonia, was found dead Wednesday night of a heroin overdose. Law enforcement officials arrested a suspect in Smith's death, the fourth heroin-related fatality in the county since 2011.Continued ...
Gladiators capture tennis regional
St. Francis tennis coach Jeff Hughes juggled his lineup during the season — and it paid off with a Division 4 regional title Thursday at Traverse City Central.Continued ...
Editorial: Obama must set tone for IRS, Justice Dept.
The issue: IRS, Justice Department have much to answer for. Our view: Leadership begins and ends with President Obama.Continued ...
Couple's film focuses on Latin American coffee farmers
Have you ever taken a moment to consider where your morning cup of java comes from?Continued ...
TCC girls beat Midland, qualify for state finals
Traverse City Central qualified for the girls tennis state finals for the 32nd straight year, handily winning the Division 1 regional at Midland.Continued ...
Beach Bums open tonight against Joliet
Jacob Clem will get the start in tonight’s Traverse City Beach Bums opener at Joliet.Continued ...
No food truck buffet rolled out on first day
Diners who hankered for food truck fare on the first day the mobile restaurants were allowed downtown came away hungry.Continued ...
Papa Roach is still swingin'
Papa Roach is still producing hit songs. It’s just getting harder and harder to get radio stations to play them.Continued ...
Letters to the Editor: 05/17/2013
Second to none; Teach more about less.Continued ...
Firings anger Grand Traverse Band members
Tribal officials fired six of their Natural Resources Department employees for shooting a rifle off their office’s deck, a move that’s angered some Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa members who said the punishment is too severe.Continued ...
One-woman show helps gardens
Emily Dickinson, one of America’s earliest poets, died in 1886. She comes to life this weekend in the acclaimed one-woman play, “Belle of Amherst,” performed by professional actress Sinda Nichols.Continued ...
Prep Sports Roundup: Schiller throws no-hitter for TC Central
Ryan Schiller threw a no-hitter as TC Central defeated Benzie Central 15-0 in a three-inning softball doubleheader opener. (Plus more)Continued ...
Weekend in Brief: 05/17/2013
Do the BBQ; Benzie Players; Garage sale. (Plus more)Continued ...
Low-flying helicopters are coming
Don’t worry: the low-flying helicopters buzzing through northern Michigan are not from the United Nations or some secret government agency.Continued ...
Nursing home promises to repay Benzie $484K
The Maples nursing home officials told Benzie County leaders they will repay $484,000 the county loaned the facility by March 2014.Continued ...
Traverse City Light & Power joins SUN project
Traverse City Light & Power board members approved the final step in implementing a community solar project in partnership with Cherryland Electric Cooperative.Continued ...
Sports in Brief: 05/17/2013
Roller derby bouts this weekend; Blue Star hosting baseball tourney; Screening of 'Signals for Survival.' (Plus more)Continued ...
Movie Capsules: 05/17/2013
New this week — Star Trek Into Darkness: After the crew of the Enterprise finds an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction.Continued ...
- FINAL: Joliet 5, Traverse City 2