July 14, 2010 Edition

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Head of state Chamber visits WR

Ray Moseley (right) visits with Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, following the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce's quarterly meeting on Thursday.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gretchen Hunt

Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, was in Walnut Ridge Thursday to meet with members of the Lawrence County Chamber regarding the recently passed healthcare bill.

While many Lawrence County businesses (those with under 50 employees) will not be required to provide insurance, tax credits are available to those that do.

Zook said businesses with 50 or more employees will have to keep a closer watch on the legislation and the rules and regulations as they are written and distributed.

"They will definitely have requirements and choices to make," he said.

While the changes were passed as healthcare reform, Zook said it is really about health insurance.

"The goal is to reduce the number of uninsured," he said. "By 2019 insurance will be extended to 32 million of the approximately 50 million who are currently uninsured."

The new legislation requires every American to carry health insurance, either through their employer or as an individual. Zook said there will be penalties for individuals who do not carry insurance, as well as penalties for companies that do not provide insurance.

"The biggest change will be adding people to Medicaid," he said. "Approximately 240,000 Arkansans will be eligible for Medicaid who are not now."

He said a family of four will be able to make up to approximately $30,000 and still qualify for Medicaid.

Costs will be covered by the federal government for an introductory period, which has not yet been set. After two or three years, though, part of that burden will transfer to the state.

"After the introductory period, Arkansas will be responsible for 10 percent of the cost, which is estimated at $150 million a year," Zook said.

The state legislature will have to look at ways to provide those needed funds.

"Most of the details are not available to us yet," he said. "Much has not even been written."

Zook encourages businesses and inviduals to keep up with information on the new regulations as it is released.

"It will drive a lot of change," he said.

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