State, local businesses react to health care ruling

2012-06-28T13:45:00Z 2012-07-11T23:24:04Z State, local businesses react to health care rulingBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

State business groups attacked Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, while local business owners already are thinking ahead of how to adjust to the law's realities.

"It will be a real challenge here to figure out what it all means and how to make it work," said John Barney, president of Barney Enterprises, which operates several Wendy's restaurants in the region.

There is no doubt the law's mandate to provide health insurance for all employees will drive up costs in the quick service restaurant business, Barney said. And those costs will inevitably be passed on to consumers.

Business groups on Thursday still were focused on next steps for changing or even repealing the law.

"This is a devastating loss for small businesses in Indiana," said Barbara Quandt, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. "It has already driven up premiums and dampened demand for labor in our state."

In its 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld nearly all of President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul, including the hotly debated core requirement that nearly every American have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

The ruling and the quickening pace of the health care act's implementation will have little impact on Beatty International, a Hammond machine shop, according to President Brian Beatty. That's because the company's relatively "rich" employee health insurance package appears to comply with the law's mandates, he said.

But Beatty hopes the health care act will offer a good start toward containing skyrocketing health insurance costs.

"Something had to be done," he said. "The status quo was not acceptable. It was not working."

The businesses that are likely to feel the largest impact are retailers, quick service food restaurants, seasonal employers and others that have not been able to offer comprehensive health insurance to many of their employees in the past.

Even some that do were chafing at the Supreme Court's upholding of the law on Thursday.

"While we wholly support changes to the current health-care system in our country, we feel the current plan as written and mandated will further stifle economic growth by the small business sector at this very critical time in our economy," wrote Luke Oil President Tom Collins Sr., in an e-mailed statement to the Times.

Small business owners also are concerned that implementing the far-reaching act may require further tax increases by the federal government, Barney said.

"What's to stop them five years from now saying, 'We can't afford this and raising taxes?'" he asked.

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