Health care: What’s next for small businesses?

Health care: What’s next for small businesses? »Play Video
An employee at Case Auto Shop in Woodburn works on a car Monday, March 22, 2010. Many small business owners say that while they don't know how the newly passed health care package will affect them, they do know they can't afford the cost of health insurance now for their employees.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Many small business owners said Monday they don’t know how the newly passed health care reform package will affect them, but they said they do know they can’t afford the health insurance squeeze they’re in right now.

For businesses like Mama Mia’s restaurant in downtown Portland and Case Auto Shop in Woodburn, health care costs for both have jumped 30 percent in the past year.

“As an owner, I’ve even looked at cutting back my own health care, and that’s just not an option either,” said Mike Sumner, who owns Case Auto Shop.

“I can’t imagine that I’d be paying any more for health care than I’m paying right now,” said Mama Mia’s owner Lisa Schroeder.

By 2014, both businesses will be able to join a state-run pool to buy health insurance, but even according to the Congressional Budget Office, savings may only amount to a few percentage points.

Additionally, if the House version makes it through the Senate, there will be even more changes for small businesses. Part-time employees would be counted in some way toward the 50-employee minimum for health insurance reasons.

To pay for all this, individuals making $200,000 or more, or couples making $250,000 or more, would pay a surcharge on investment income of 3.8 percent.

The provision not to exclude or set rates based on someone’s pre-existing health condition is critical for businesses like Mama Mia’s and Case Auto Shop where workers are considered family.

“I have an employee who has cancer,” said Schroeder. “If, God forbid, she leaves me, she would be faced with not being able to get health coverage somewhere else because she has a pre-existing condition.”

“It’s the system that’s failing,” said Sumner. “If we don’t do something, it’s something that we’re all going to really be hurt by.”

Neither Schroeder nor Sumner said they are sure the reform bill is the best alternative. But both said something had to be done to try and control health care costs.