Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Small-business owners debate mandatory health insurance

health insurance

Even though Lawrence A. Kushnick already provides health insurance to his six employees, the Melville attorney bristles at the idea that the government may require him someday to do so.

"I don't like being told what business model I have to follow," he said.

Kushnick said if he's boxed into providing insurance and business tightens, he's then more likely to have to cut salaries or lay off workers, he said.

Because the House health care bill that passed over the weekend exempts companies with payrolls below $500,000, few companies that don't provide health insurance now will be required to do so.

Fred Barba, chief operating officer of the Long Island Association's Health Alliance, noted that 86 percent of companies in the state have payrolls below $500,000, so many companies would be unaffected by this bill.

Still, some Long Island business owners resent the possibility that they would be told by the government what benefits to give employees.

For Lou Basso, president of The Alcott Group, a Farmingdale company that provides human resources services to small companies, such a requirement would hurt his customers more than his own company. His 50 employees already have company-provided health insurance.

"This could be devastating to small- to medium-sized businesses," Basso said. "It's going to be a real challenge."

A company that's barely holding on can't afford such a large, new expense, Basso said, adding that he's hopeful the Senate bill, which does not require companies to provide insurance, prevails.

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* Michael Bastardi
* Barack Obama Barack Obama
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But some see potential hidden benefits in providing insurance to new people. Josh Rossman, owner of a Port Jefferson Station accounting firm, said if the pool of insured people expands - especially with young, healthy people - insurance premiums could decrease.

He said he's more concerned about the effect of possible tax increases to pay for health care than he is about companies' having to provide insurance.

Ann Shybunko-Moore, president of Hauppauge defense contractor GSE Dynamics, said it would be best to look past the emotion surrounding the debate and analyze who's really affected. Noting the $500,000 payroll exemption in the House bill, she said many companies may not need to worry.

And something needs to be done, she said. "The system is broke now. It needs a change."