Small business and health care reform

November 15, 2009 7:29:59 PM PST
There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding health care reform for small businesses. One small business in Nassau County fears cost, and that the plan will be something they can't afford.

Ori Cohen started his business, Orics Industries, out of a studio apartment in Queens 19 years ago.

He is located in Farmingdale now, and some of his biggest clients include Nestle and McDonald's.

Cohen's machine slices and packages McDonald's pickles, tomatoes and onions. They machines are made in a modest office with 38 employees who are offered health insurance because Ori believes it's the right thing to do.

"I take out of my own pocket and pay my employees. I wear jeans and t-shirts," he said.

Ori had to cut his work force in half last year with the sluggish economy. At that point he started paying only 50 percent of his employees benefits versus 80 percent.

Now, with the Obama administration's health care reform plan he fears he will have no choice but to provide more coverage.

"If I have to pay all the social benefits, I will have to lay off all of these people and instead of having a shop in Farmingdale, New York, we will go to a machine shop in Beijing," he said.

But some supporters say under the health care reform plans being considered small businesses will flourish citing:

  • The workforce will likely be healthier
  • It'll be easier to attract and hold talent
  • With reform, owners will be able to buy employees insurance at a lower rate .

    It's also a possible the smallest businesses will be exempt from the mandate those with 25 or fewer employees or, in another plan, a payroll of less than 500-thousand dollars a year.

    But with a staff of 36, Orics Industries likely won't be exempt unless more employees are fired as a way to meet that low-bar criteria.

    Phil Orenstein says he sees the writing on the wall. When health care reform goes through, he'll have seen his last days in manufacturing.

    "There is a message of more and more government programs. The buyouts of the banks and auto industry. This depresses the whole country," Orenstein said.

    I also spoke with Matthew Crossen, president of the Long Island Association. He says he's concerned about the rush to get this done because it affects a huge number of Americans. If they don't get it right and leave plenty of choices for small businesses, it could ruin the entire process of what's trying to be done.



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