According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Obama administration recently released figures showing that the typical plan in the new healthcare marketplace exchange in Alabama should cost around the national average or slightly less.

The administration’s figures also show that Alabama’s prices are in line with neighboring Georgia and Florida, but they are generally higher than Tennessee, where the number of qualified plans being offered by companies is seven times greater than Alabama. With plans now online effective Oct. 1, consumers can look into the specifics of any plan’s particulars by logging onto www.healthcare.gov.

Per Bloomberg, the federal government created Alabama’s marketplace because Gov. Bentley opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and chose not to have a state-run exchange. In theory, the marketplace is aimed at the 13.3 percent of Alabamians under 65 without any health coverage.

The plans will be at different levels and vary by area. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the state’s largest health insurer, is offering plans covering the entire state. United Healthcare applied to do the same, while Humana proposed covering parts of the state. According to Dennis Mayfield, CEO of benefits consulting group Mayfield & Associates, over the last few years the Obama administration has led the strongest nation in the world into one of the most significant financial changes endured since World War II.

“There remain many doubts, concerns and challenges for millions of Americans to learn and appreciate. Now that the public exchange is open for business, what’s not clear is how coverages will actually work — if networks will change and which providers will accept exchange based coverage — among a surfeit of other unknowns on the table,” Mayfield said.

Outside of the new government health insurance website and traditional providers such as BCBS, individuals who don’t qualify for a tax credit also have the option of exploring new private exchanges sprouting up in the marketplace. Regardless of what avenue is pursued by consumers, however, mandatory approved coverage must be obtained by Jan. 1, 2014, to avoid paying penalties on next year’s tax returns.   

“Our national media make it truly sound like it is perhaps a bad deal when in reality the industry is adaptable to these new delivery and utilization issues. As the ACA evolves, our country could very well be better as a result. Large employers will continue to develop and offer employee benefits. Smaller companies will benefit from the SHOP exchange options that help get more individuals covered than otherwise would occur without the exchange,” Mayfield said.

Recently in the media, President Obama addressed the role of technology in significantly reducing healthcare costs less than a decade ago. The implication behind this line of White House reasoning implies that technology will continue to drive down costs as ACA mandates are phased in, adopted and implemented over the ensuing years.

“In my experience, it is far wiser to embrace change than to fight against what is right in the end.  It is right that all Americans have quality medical coverage at an affordable cost,” Mayfield said.   

Baldwin Utility is green energy player

Per the news website Business Alabama, Daphne Utility — a small sewer utility company in Baldwin County — is a major participant in an experiment that may transform wastewater treatment on a world-wide stage.

“My company, Algae Systems, is working to convert sewage energy into carbon-negative transport fuels,” posted Algae Systems President John Perry Barlow back in January of 2011 on Twitter. The message intrigued Rob McElroy, general manager of the Daphne Utility, enough to investigate the social media post.

Barlow’s lofty green energy goal was to convert waste into fuel. In a timely turn of coincidental zeitgeist, Daphne Utility has run its transport trucks on homemade biodiesel for years, synthesizing fuel from used cooking oil. Turning mass quantities of disposal product into an oil alternative, however, was a challenge seemingly bordering on alchemy.

The Algae Systems model relies on using sunlight and algae to purify wastewater without chemicals or filters. The algae and the waste are placed in containers floating in a coastal water body such as Mobile Bay. Mixed by wave action and fertilized by the nitrogen and phosphorus in the waste, the algae reproduces at an accelerated rate; absorbing the contaminants and releasing energy stored in the waste. The end result is algae converted into various types of practical fuel sources and purified water that is nearly drinkable.

So far, the process has only been proven in a laboratory set up at the Daphne Utilities complex. Work is in process to scale up to a larger version that will be set up at the north end of Mobile Bay. Waves will provide the necessary mixing process. The final plan is to purify 50,000 gallons of water per day.

According to McElroy, Algae Systems’ method could deliver clean water to impoverished nations globally.

“You can have a long lasting impact with this that’s much greater than anything that John Perry and I can do here in Daphne,” McElroy said.
The question remains, however, if the process will scale up to work on millions of gallons daily.

“On the big stage is where this grand idea will ultimately be proven or invalidated,” McElroy said. Time will tell.

Alabama bottom of “Best States for Business”

Alabama recently ranked 44th in Forbes’ yearly “Best States for Business” report. The six categories of performance measured for companies were: costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. Adjacent Gulf Coast states Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida came in at 49th, 40th and 22nd respectively. Northern neighbor Tennessee placed 15th on the list.

Commercial real estate moves

The owners of Port City Glass recently sold their building at 1242 Montilmar Dr. to a local investor for $500,000. Angela McArthur of Prudential Cooper & Co., Inc. Commercial Division handled the transaction.

Murray Hill Apartments, a 120-unit complex, located at Murray Hill Court on DIP, and situated on roughly 10 acres, was sold to a non-local buyer for $850,000. M.J. Baxter & Associates and Don Foster of Prudential Cooper & Company managed the transaction.

Per city records, a 3,758-square-foot property will soon be the residence of a new restaurant called Mojo’s Seafood & Chicken at 116 E. 20th Ave. in Gulf Shores. Opening is anticipated in January, 2014. The property was formerly home to a clothing retailer.