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April 20. 2014 11:57PM

Downhill: Obamacare vs. ski areas

Among Obamacare's myriad negative effects on small businesses could be this: shorter ski seasons in New Hampshire.

At a forum on the Affordable Care Act held last week, Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock Ski Resort, said the resort might shorten its season because it cannot afford to offer health insurance to its full-time seasonal employees who work for more than 120 consecutive days, as the law requires.

"We may not be able to open beyond 120 days; it may be Christmas to the middle of March ... the summer season may be the fourth of July until Labor Day," he said.

Similar problems could hit summer resorts. Elsewhere, ski resorts have found it more cost-effective to stop offering insurance to their seasonal employees. In Steamboat Springs, Colo., Intrawest, owner of Steamboat Ski Area, announced in March that it would no longer offer insurance to its seasonal employees because of Obamacare. The company informed the employees that they would have to buy coverage on Colorado's exchange, Steamboat Today reported last month.

in February, Colorado Insurance Commissioner Margeurite Salazar came under fire for approving Obamacare exchange plans that gave Colorado resort towns the most expensive rates in the country. She acknowledged to Kaiser Health News that resort employees "were hoping that the ACA would be able to provide some kind of affordable coverage for them, but in fact there's a whole group of people … finding themselves priced out."

Kaiser Health News reported that Obamacare had prevented many ski resort employees from buying the lower-cost basic coverage they used to get: "The ACA sets minimum benefit levels for health policies, meaning the skimpier coverage people purchased in the past is no longer available."

Obamacare already encourages ski resort employees to move elsewhere in the off season to find affordable health insurance. Now it might shorten seasons for smaller ski areas that cannot afford the mandated coverage for seasonal employees. As snowboarders say: bummer.


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