Closer look: Glass shop owners ponder possible effects of proposed health care reform on their businesses

Sahely Mukerji
August 26, 2009
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : CLOSER LOOK

President Obama’s proposed health care legislation--that the House passed in July--has sparked much debate. Business owners, in particular, have been questioning the plan’s pros and cons, trying to figure how it’s going to affect their trade. While the plan proposes exemptions for businesses with payrolls below $250,000, some have labeled it as a “government takeover of health care.”

Glass Magazine asked glass shop owners about their take on the plan. Below are excerpts.

Cathie Saroka, marketing director, Goldray Industries, Calgary, AB: “If Obama’s new health care plan will allow for increases in medical coverage above the minimum list of benefits for those who want to pay for it, this could be a positive move to combine the societal problem of ensuring that everyone has access to a basic level of care, but still preserving the flexibility of care that is important to many. The extra infusion of money into the system may also help to fund medical innovation.

“With any system there are always trade-offs, and every society needs to decide what role government should play and what services it should offer. If a national health care plan, perhaps in conjunction with the Social Security and Welfare programs, reflects the values of that society, then it should move forward. The details, however, will be the deciding point of whether the national health care plan will force the U.S. into a socialist system of average medical care or allow the freedom and flexibility to choose individual medical coverage which has become so important to many.

“At Goldray, we provide medical insurance to employees in our U.S. location through our union contract and extended health coverage at the Canadian location. This coverage is an important part of attracting good employees and a basic cost of doing business, so the new health plan will increase our costs minimally, if at all.

“For those companies that do not offer medical insurance, they will now be required to provide health care coverage or pay into the public system. For us, this will, in effect, level the playing field with our competitors as far as the cost of doing business is concerned. Clearly, there will be consequences with the rising costs that will likely manifest themselves in price increases, wage freezes or a rise in unemployment as small businesses will need to adjust their employee level to stay competitive.”

Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville: “EGC currently spends approximately $2,200 per year per employee for health care insurance. We have 20-plus employees. Assume the federal government ‘fines’ a business $750 for not providing insurance for its employees. Taking a purely economic slant, EGC elects to drop our health insurance coverage, thus being placed under the government’s coverage. EGC saves approximately $29,000 in premiums plus the in-house administrative costs.

“However, because the government now ‘controls’ health care, it will dictate the amount doctors may charge. Consequently, doctors provide fewer patient services than they would under a private health care plan. This may include fewer tests, less thorough analysis, or shorter one-on-one times with patients. This poorer quality of treatment is directly tied to economics--reimbursement for services--dictated by government. The government has eliminated, by its total control, the incentive to provide services.

“Now, although EGC ‘saved’ $29,000, its employees receive fewer/poorer medical services and, therefore, aren’t as healthy. This leads to increase absenteeism, leading to less company production, leading to delayed invoicing, leading to diminished cash flow, leading to fewer jobs.

“Conversely, EGC elects to stay with its current private health coverage. The increased expense hurts its bottom line and may, since EGC’s overhead is higher than its competition, put it at a competitive disadvantage.

“The small business gets screwed either way!”

Steve Mort, CEO, Don’s Mobile Glass Inc., Modesto, Calif.: “If all Americans are covered by some kind of health care it will be good for our business. We provide coverage for our employees and their families. All other employers should be required to do the same. Then those people who are unemployed should be covered by a lean government plan.”

Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas: "The proposed government takeover of our nation's health care system would be disastrous on many levels. Costs would increase and limit our choices as a government-run plan quickly eliminates all competition from private insurance and develops into a monopoly. The employer mandate would kill jobs and reduce wages. The government would grow and spend at a pace even greater than we have seen in recent years. More government is not the answer, especially when the proposed growth is being rushed into law so quickly.

"Reform of our health care system is needed and is a superior solution to the proposed wholesale takeover by the government. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has done a great job of focusing the needed reforms into a three-pronged approach: 1) rein-in costs using the best parts of the many delivery and payment reform proposals on the table--a true bi-partisan approach; 2) revamp the insurance system and its regulators; 3) create a national marketplace for health insurance to make it simpler and more fair. The Chamber explains this in greater detail at www.uschamber.com."

Guy Selinske, president, American Glass & Mirror: "We have a health care system that is less effective than most industrialized nations, is incredibly expensive and has a rate of inflation far greater than our overall inflation rate. It has been this way for at least a decade or two. What reasonable person would not want health care reform? The sad part of it is that we will not get the best bill because instead of joining the debate some are content to be as obstructive as possible. I guess that is the nature of politics now and we have to expect it.

"I am wondering if it might not have been a better idea for Obama to have taken a more measured approach to reform rather than an all encompassing one. The whole health care system is just too massive to be able to set right in one massive bill. There will inevitably be things in the bill that not be well thought out and have unintended consequences. Although I have not read the whole 1,000-page bill I have listened to the debate and read up on it. Anything is better than the status quo.

"As far as helping or hurting my business. Anything that can check the spiraling costs of health care is bound to help the bottom line."

Bill Yanek, executive vice president, Glass Association of North America, Topeka, Kan.: "The biggest problem with the proposed health plans is that there is no one plan. I follow the coverage closely, and I could not tell you which version is the president's, or the House's, or the Senate's. Uncertainty is leading directly to the voter angst we see daily at the town halls. That being said, GANA could best be served if trade associations were allowed to form insurance groups across state lines. I do not believe that is yet part of what is being considered, but would benefit trade associations a great deal."

E-mail Sahely Mukerji, senior editor, at smukerji@glass.org.