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Waiting Game

Businesses unsure of health care bill’s effect

April 4, 2010
By KAYLEIGH KARUTIS, The Leader-Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - Though health care reform measures have passed and will begin to take effect over the next few years, local businesses say they are still struggling to wade through the details of what the bill will mean for them.

Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Wally Hart said he has yet to make much sense of the bill, which eventually will result in more than 30 million more people being insured. The bill contains requirements on individuals and businesses, but Hart said it is unclear how those requirements will really affect local business owners.

"It sounds like the bill will have provisions for companies with 50 or more employees and if they don't offer health insurance, they will be fined," he said. "What will the effect be of that charge? It's a big expense but how does it compare to paying for full coverage?"

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Jeff Lehner, owner of Johnstown Auto Parts, works on paperwork in his office on Wednesday.

Hart said he is searching for more information about what the bill will mean for smaller businesses. According to President Barack Obama and other supporters of the legislation, small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees would receive a tax credit. Obama also has emphasized "exchanges" for health insurance that small businesses will be able to dip into and choose a plan they like for their employees at a lower-than-market cost.

It will take time for the full effect of the bill to be known, though, Hart said.

"I haven't gotten through everything yet," he said. "Many of the things don't go into effect until 2014 or 2018 so who knows what will be modified by then."

Fred Olbrych, owner of Schoolhouse Pools, SLA Transport and Universal Housing, said he is unsure how the bill will affect his business. He said he employs about 150 people and offers health insurance to his employees.

"To be honest, we are still in the dark about this whole thing," he said. "You hear one thing and then you hear a contradiction. We are really taking a wait-and-see approach."

Olbrych said ideally, he would be happy to see his health insurance premiums decrease under the new bill. He said regular huge increases have become expected each year.

"Every year they ratchet up," he said. "I'm hoping it's pro-business and doesn't put any more burden [on business owners]. I'm not sure how it will be affecting us so right now it's all still a mystery."

Jeff Lehner, owner of Johnstown Auto Parts and Gloversville Auto Parts, said he, too, is unsure how the bill will affect him and his approximately 18 employees. He said he offers health insurance to his employees through the HealthNY plan that provides a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan.

"It's much better than your typical plan and is advantageous for us," he said.

Lehner said because he already offers health insurance to his employees, he believes the bill probably won't have much of an affect on him.

"We haven't figured everything out yet, but I don't think it will be a big change," he said.

Lehner said, however, that he believes the bill was generally a good idea because it will help insure more people. He said, like Olbrych, he still is waiting for more details about how it will affect him.

"Well, if the [premium] rates came down, that would be great," he said.



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