Elmira Business Owners React to Affordable Care Act

Posted July 9, 2012

Elmira business owners worry about health care law
By G. Jeffrey Aaron, The Star-Gazette

The day the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, Elmira business owner Gina Mitchell got a notice in the mail saying the costs for providing health insurance to her employees next year would increase by 15 percent.

The higher costs weren't a result of the controversial law. But like other small business owners who have been watching the political battle over the 2010 health care reform law, Mitchell finds herself wondering how the new law will affect her business's health insurance premium costs for 2014 and beyond.

"It's getting harder and harder to provide insurance for my employees; it's next to impossible," Mitchell, the owner of Office Equipment Source Inc., said.

Katie Clark, the owner of Katie's Café, another downtown Elmira business, is also worried how the new legislation will affect her bottom line, and her ability to hire workers and purchase new equipment.

"I wear a lot of hats at my business and figuring out how to do the paperwork for my employees will take up too much of my time," she said.

Mitchell, Clark and TruBlu Services owner Joe Tolpa appeared recently with Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, at the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce office in Elmira to highlight the uncertainties created for small businesses by President Barack Obama's health care law. The new rules, Reed said, were "jammed through" Congress with little thought on how they would affect small businesses.

"The legislation puts handcuffs on those who create jobs," Reed said. "It means more government and higher taxes. The health insurance reforms need to be done but the legislation doesn't get to the root of what is driving up our health care costs."

Reed also said the new Health Insurance Tax, charged to all health insurance companies based on their net premiums and part of the new rules, was pushed back until 2014 -- after the upcoming elections in November. The new tax will cost businesses and employees $8 billion in 2014, increasing to $14.3 billion in 2018. It's also likely the costs will be passed on to the insured parties and raise health care premiums on an estimated 2 million small businesses, he said.

"Health care reform needs to come from the grass-roots up and not from Washington, D.C., down," said Reed. "Obamacare must be repealed because it hurts small businesses, deepens our national debt, and does not deal with the root problem."

Democrat Nate Shinagawa, who is challenging Reed for New York's newly created 23rd Congressional District, sees the Affordable Care Act in a slightly different light. The legislation, he said, is "a very good first step to reduce health care costs in the long run, but there is more work to do."

He added that the law provides significant subsidies to small businesses to help them offer healthcare to their employees.

"The legislation increases access to health care and protects patients from insurance companies that value profits over patients," Shinagawa said in a statement. "If Congressman Reed focuses on repealing the law, he's playing politics and putting the interests of Republican leadership ahead of residents of New York and the Southern Tier. If Republicans in Congress have their way, insurance companies would be in charge of your healthcare decisions."

Meanwhile, Chemung County Chamber President Kevin Keeley said the concerns expressed by the business owners were consistent with those held by the chamber's membership. Until the legislation's financial impacts are fully known, he said, many member businesses are taking a cautious approach to expanding.

"And in the business world, caution doesn't work because it leads to stagnation," he said. "The legislation was created by the politicians in power and when business owners see that, they become skeptical about it and don't do anything until they see how it settles out."

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