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OPINION – American businesses lost $576 billion in wages last year due to employee sickness. When a person’s health causes them to miss work days, it has a direct effect on the ability of the business to perform at its optimal level of operation.

People are a business’s greatest asset and if a business does not protect its employees, the business is doomed to fail.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a revolutionary law, designed to assure every American has health insurance. It’s good for people. It’s good for business. It’s good for the country.

Considering small businesses are the biggest job creators in this vibrant economic engine, it is critically important for owners to be cognizant of the health and wellness of their employees.

California and Governor Jerry Brown should be commended for leading the effort and becoming one of the first states to implement the ACA. More than 16,000 applications were completed between October 1 and October 5 and another 28,000 are in process, most of which were individuals and families previously without health insurance coverage.

So far, as of this writing, approximately 400 small businesses have signed up.

The perceived confusion should be diminished for business owners realizing the ACA divides businesses into two categories. Businesses with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance coverage for their workers. If you have less than 50 employees you are required to direct them to the Covered California website or provide them with the appropriate telephone contact so they may be able to make an informed decision on which health insurance provider they would like to choose.

Businesses providing health insurance for their employees face varying providers with allusive, pricing formulas; however, those businesses are encouraged to take advantage of the capped liability and available tax credits for their participation.

Individuals without health insurance may endure fines, extracted from their tax returns. This mandate encourages everyone to obtain coverage. However, the structural development of the ACA regulates the market price so that it truly is affordable, and no one can be denied of insurance due to pre-existing conditions.

Prior to ACA, health insurance costs were spinning out of control. It is long past due to stop and fix this bleeding system.

The notion of social welfare relating to ACA is nonsense. It’s good business sense. When employees are covered, and companies encourage health, wellness, and early detection it develops long term stability, reduces turnover, reduces emergency hospital visits and encourages individuals to get check-ups and other forms of preventive personal health maintenance.

No matter whether an organization is on the Fortune 500 list or is a smaller, entrepreneurial or philanthropic venture, it is people who form the core of that enterprise. If they are sick, and your business does not incorporate health preventive options, now subsidized by the ACA, your business too will be sick and potentially shuttered.

For more information contact the California Black Chamber of Commerce at (916) 463-0178.