Newsmakers, June 19, 2014

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers

Small Business and the Affordable Care Act; Capoli Slough

Featured in this Show

  • Small Business and the Affordable Care Act

    Small businesses in western Wisconsin are not very prepared to offer employees health care insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act. That’s according to the first-ever project by UW-La Crosse’s Policy Research Network.

    A survey of 970 small businesses in Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District shows 20 percent of small businesses have actually browsed an Affordable Care Act website specially designed for businesses between one and 100 employees who want to offer those workers health insurance through the federal program.

    “I wasn’t surprised that so few had browsed,” said Mary Hamman, assistant professor of economics, whose UW-La Crosse class wrote the survey, gathered data and presented the report to Third District Congressman Ron Kind. “But I guess it was a little surprising to me to know that they (small businesses) weren’t familiar with the business side of the health care exchange,” she said.

    Congressman Kind’s office had requested that the Policy Research Network try and answer the question of: “Whether or not small businesses are shopping the exchange?”

    As part of the Affordable Care Act, Congress established SHOP, or the Small Business Health Options Program, where small businesses could buy health insurance for their employees. It’s similar to a website that was implemented earlier this year for people to buy individual health insurance plans. But small businesses will not be able to actually buy health insurance for their employees through SHOP until 2016.

    While not all businesses are required to offer health insurance to employees, those with 100 or more full time workers will be required to pay what’s known as the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment in 2015, and businesses with 50-100 workers will make the payment beginning in 2016.

    Other notable results from the survey are that half the small businesses who filled out the survey feel the Affordable Care Act should be repealed. Few employers in western Wisconsin are planning to cut hours, or lay off workers as a result of the law. That contradicts a Congressional Budget Office report from earlier this year that suggested the law could have a major negative effect on jobs.

    “One of the key recommendations is that there needs to be more information provided to businesses,” Hamman said. “Particularly with respect to some of the tools available to them, like the tax credit calculator that are even simpler than going out and browsing specific plans.”

    Twenty-two students in one of Hamman’s classes did all of the work on the survey. She says it’s a good example of the type of work the Policy Research Network hopes to do for policy makers at the local, state and federal level.

  • Capoli Slough

    State and federal officials are putting the finishing touches on a series of Mississippi River islands this summer. They hope to restore river habitats that have eroded away.

    Jeff Janvrin’s driving a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources boat along the Upper Mississippi River near Ferryville and passes a series of new islands.

    The Capoli Slough Habitat Rehabilitation and Restoration Project has been under construction for three years. As the DNR’s Mississippi River habitat specialist, Janvrin says the new islands should create a healthier ecosystem for the fish, birds, and reptiles.

    “A more diverse system is more resilient to stressors, whether that be invasion of exotic species, climate change, etc,” he said. “If you have a very simple system, a monotypic system, it’s more susceptible to any type of a change that then sets back or could destroy the ecosystem that’s there.”

    Workers created the 22 acres of islands among the few remaining ones using sand, topsoil, and rocks. The project should be finished this fall, after workers spend the summer smoothing out the islands and planting prairie grass and trees.

    Once construction is complete, the islands will become part of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Wildlife biologist Wendy Woyczik says canvasbacks, mallards, and wood ducks are already settling on the islands.

    “It provides protection for them so they can get out of the wind and the waves,” she said. “So a place for food and a place for protection.”

    The islands are open to fishing and hunting.

Episode Credits

  • Maureen McCollum Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Maureen McCollum Producer
  • Mary Meehan-Strub Interviewer
  • Dr. Mary Hamman Guest
  • Jeff Janvrin Guest
  • Wendy Woyczik Guest