(Dow Jones) The health-care overhaul President Barack Obama has signed into law will mean big changes for many small businesses.

Through a combination of penalties, tax credits and purchasing pools, lawmakers aim to boost insurance coverage for U.S. workers. The overall implications are far reaching, and the effect on investing could be signifcant. How this legislation will affect businesses depends in large part on their size.

Beginning in 2014, organizations with more than 50 employees that don't offer affordable coverage will pay a penalty starting at $750 a year per full-time worker under the bill approved by the Senate and House of Representatives.

A proposal approved separately by the House, which still requires Senate approval, would raise that penalty to $2,000.

Employers with 50 or fewer employees would be exempt from these penalties, while organizations with more than 200 workers would be required to enroll workers automatically into health-insurance plans offered by the employer. Employees can opt out of these plans.

Penalties are the sticks meant to spur employers to offer coverage. The carrots comes in the form of tax credits.

For tax years 2010 through 2013, organizations with no more than 25 employees and average annual wages of less than $50,000 that purchase health insurance for employees would receive a tax credit that phases out as firm size and average wage increase, according to a legislative summary from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Beginning in 2014, eligible small businesses that purchase coverage through new state exchanges can also receive a tax credit for their contribution toward the employees' health-insurance premium.

The legislation calls for the creation of state-based exchanges through which individuals and small businesses can purchase health coverage.

Opinions on whether legislation will help or hinder small business vary.

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