Nightly News   |  December 29, 2013

Small businesses face health care trade-offs

Before the new health care law, a Michigan car dealership offered employees a company health insurance plan. Things are different now. Lisa Myers reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the obama administration today relesioned new numbers showing a december surge in sign ups through the government's rehabilitated health care website. total enrollment now tops 1.1 million. that's after 975,000 americans signed up this month alone. meantime, for a lot of americans, including those working for small businesses, there is still uncertainty and often sticker shock over their health choices. nbc news senior investigative correspondent lisa meyers reports from michigan .

>> reporter: 40 employees of extreme dodge in jackson, michigan , just came face to face with the new realities of health care , and most did not like what they see.

>> how is this helping the average american that works 40 to 50 hours a week? how are we supposed to live?

>> reporter: at their annual benefits meeting, they were told their current insurance was canceled because it doesn't comply with the new health care law and that the dealership had decided to take things in a new direction.

>> it doesn't add up.

>> reporter: the company is changing how it handles health insurance this year. instead of actually providing a company health plan as it has for 35 years, the business now will give each worker $2400 to buy insurance or spend on something else. that $2400 is slightly more than the company spent per worker on health insurance this year, the owner says. the change is to control future costs. and is it a step back in your commitment to provide health care ?

>> as a business owner , you know, we have to be viable first and then provide services.

>> reporter: the owner brought in an insurance broker to help his workers figure out if they'd be better off buying insurance elsewhere. there were a handful of winners, mostly low-income workers who can get insurance for very little through the new government health care exchange. you excited?

>> oh, yeah. anything that can help me and my family out, that's what we're going to do.

>> reporter: others make a little too much for a government subsidy and will use the $2400 from the company to buy a group plan it has recommended. but under that new group plan , they face much higher out-of-pocket costs. the deductible will go from $ 1125 this year to $3,000 next year. and maximum out-of-pocket costs jump from $2250 to $6350. and for families, those numbers double.

>> you don't make that much money to begin with. and the prescriptions are going to kill me.

>> reporter: while employees here are used to their costs going up every year, it's never before been this dramatic. most of this group count themselves as losers under the new law. many feel they're paying too much to help others get insurance.

>> there's nothing wrong with trying to help people, but there's a better way. this isn't the way.

>> reporter: a veteran mechanic said he hoped the new law would help his family. now he's upset.

>> the days of low deductibles and all that stuff are gone. so it's not going to get any better. it's just going to get worse.

>> reporter: lisa meyers, nbc news, jackson, michigan .