Local business owners and politicians split after court decision on healthcare law

Local business owner Don Ryan is fairly certain that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will hurt small business.

“As a small business owner I’m not in favor of it,” he said.

But the owner of the MoonDogs, Too restaurant, Darryl Baldwin, takes a different stance on the 2010 The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was last week affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There are little quirks that need to be tweaked,” Baldwin said. “But by having everybody buy insurance, it will hopefully lower the cost to all.”

Ryan and Baldwin are just two Port Orchard business owners struggling to make sense of what the changes in healthcare law, colloquially known as Obamacare, will mean to their small businesses following the court decision.

And though both agree they won’t know until all provisions of the law are in place, already business owners seem as split on the law as politicians from both sides of the aisle.

“Everybody has a different perspective,” Baldwin said.

Coreen Haydock, the executive director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber rarely takes an official stance on political and legal matters. The same has held true for the passing of the healthcare legislation, she said.

“There is quite a range of opinions on it,” Haydock said. “Everyone has a different take.”

Among a number of new health provisions such as allowing young adults to stay on their parents insurance until age 26 and mandating that insurance companies not restrict people with pre-existing medical insurance from buying insurance, there are more than a few regulations in the law that will have a direct affect on small businesses. Two provisions in particular draw the most attention. Employers with fewer than 25 employees that provide health insurance will receive a tax credit of up to 50 percent of the insurance cost by 2014. In contrast, employers with more than 50 employees who do not offer health insurance to full time employees will be penalized.

It’s the penalties, not the credit, that most concern Ryan. The owner of six businesses, including the One Ten Lounge downtown, Ryan said he would purposefully keep his number of full-time employees below 50 to not incur the cost of either providing health insurance or taking a penalty.

“I would never grow my employee base that large,” he said. “I would deliberately keep my company small.”

Ryan went on to say it’s another financial restriction that hurts already struggling employers.

“To me, it’s a forced restriction on employers who are struggling already.”

Doug Cloud, a Republican candidate for Washington State’s 6th Congressional District, said he dislikes the financial burden of the healthcare law. But more than the burden on small and medium sized employers, Cloud said the crippling burden on the country’s economy, caused by what he believes is the elimination of a free market system in purchasing healthcare, is “very damaging.” Little competition among different healthcare plans, all stymied by a government offered plan, will cost taxpayers, he said. He said he would work to repeal the healthcare and enact a different system geared toward a free market economy if elected to Congress.

“I really do think the healthcare law is a travesty,” Cloud said. “It undermines many of the great things the government does because it puts a permanent strain on the government finances.”

Derek Kilmer, a Democratic Washington State Senator running for Congress, said his work with small businesses gives him concern that a mandatory fine for not offering health insurance might hinder local businesses. Kilmer said Congress should have considered better options for cost containment, and that adjusting the law to allow for changes in electronic records keeping and claims processing could save tens of billions of dollars in our healthcare system.

But for Kilmer, the positives of the law greatly outweigh the negatives. While some changes should be made, the law passing and largely being upheld by the Supreme Court is a good thing.

“If you are a young adult staying on your parent’s insurance until your 26th birthday, that’s a good thing,” he said. “Making sure people don’t get denied for preexisting medical conditions is a good thing. Seniors given help with prescriptions is a good thing.”

Washington State 6th District hopefuls Jesse Young and Bill Driscoll did not respond to requests for comment.

Like Kilmer, Baldwin said there are some problems with the law. He said as a business owner, he might be in the minority for supporting the law, and understands Ryan’s concern with the impact it could have on his bottom line. But Baldwin, a cancer survivor, said he only thinks about what his employees would have to go through if they had a costly medical problem.

“I can’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t have insurance,” he said. “I thought I was invincible.”

Both Ryan and Baldwin agreed that they would need to read up more on the complicated law and wait until all measures were in place before coming to a final conclusion on the law.


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