Small Businesses Share Real-World Obamacare Effects with Congress

WASHINGTON – Many small businesses remain perplexed about the responsibilities being saddled on them by Obamacare, but federal officials insist the new law will help employers provide their workers with quality coverage at affordable prices.

And while some “glitches” require additional attention, in the view of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, “we're not going to go back to the time before people had affordable insurance.”

The impact of the controversial Affordable Care Act was the subject of a sometimes heated discussion before Landrieu’s committee, with several small-business owners asserting the new requirements will place an unbearable burden on their enterprise while others praised the law’s objective of providing new healthcare opportunities.

“The ACA isn’t perfect and it won’t solve all of our health insurance problems overnight,” said Jamal Lee, the owner of Brescia Studios, an audio, lighting, and video production company in Laurel, Md. “However, it is the first meaningful law in decades that meets many of small businesses’ core needs in regards to rising healthcare costs. In this fragile economy, policies that allow us to spend less on health premiums so we can keep more of our profits to reinvest in our companies and create jobs are what we need the most.”

But Larry Katz, president and CEO of six Dots Diners based in Metairie, La., told the panel he may have to sell off some of his restaurants to escape the burden of the new law.

“While there is no question that the federal government needs to reform and strengthen our healthcare system, I believe that the law as currently written will negatively impact job growth, startups and expansions and raise prices, not just of healthcare, but of all products and services that we buy,” Katz said. “It certainly has had a direct effect on my company and I anticipate it will leave me in a position of being less competitive with other local restaurants going forward.”

Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), the committee’s ranking member, called the new law “bologna” and asserted that it should be ditched altogether.

"Let's go back to what we have that does not do harm to the situation in American today,” Risch said. “It is just disgusting what has happened as far as the federal government having botched this as badly as it has.”

Risch joined 11 other GOP senators in signing a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, informing him they will not support a short-term spending bill when the fiscal year closes on Sept. 30 if it provides money to implement Obamacare. The letter maintained the law is “a failure that will inevitably hurt businesses, American families and the economy.” Thus far, Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have refused to back the effort led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will be required to provide them with health insurance. That mandate was supposed to go into effect in January 2014, but President Obama recently delayed implementation until January 2015 to provide businesses with additional time to sort things out.

Once Obamacare goes into effect, small businesses can look to the newly created health insurance exchanges in each state offering a health insurance marketplace where individuals and small businesses can compare policies and premiums and purchase insurance. Businesses will be penalized $2,000 per employee for failing to comply, with the first 30 employees exempted.