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‘Caught In The Middle’: Small Biz On Health Care Reform

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – Strip away the heated words outside Washington’s beltway and a far different picture of the Supreme Court decision on health care reform emerges.

It’s the perspective of Minnesota’s small business owners who will eventually be forced to pay the price.

“I think it’s very troubling,” said Maureen Steinwall, who is the president of Steinwall Scientific in Coon Rapids.

Her business is a longtime injection molding firm that employs about 150 workers. When the recession hit, it hit the company hard; and Steinwall decided to cut coverage in favor of preserving jobs. Now, employees are paid extra money in order to go out and buy the kind of health coverage that suits their individual needs. Under the law upheld by the Supreme Court, that ability would be replaced by mandated employer purchased plans.

“We’re losing our ability to make choices for ourselves and we are losing our individuality — one little piece of legislation at a time,” she said.

Small businesses like Steinwall’s say the cost of mandated coverage will force them to decide between growing the business or cutting jobs. The mandate comes at a time the U.S. is struggling to grow the economy and put people back to work. Money taken away from that effort, which would be diverted into health insurance, could end up further stalling the economic recovery.

“The impact will be that the decisions we’re making today to grow and to have people in the environment rather than equipment and machinery will start to influence our decisions,” Steinwall said.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which was a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s reform legislation, said the average Minnesota company now spends roughly $9,000 to buy health coverage for each employee.

NFIB Minnesota Director Mike Hickey says it’s an added burden that many small companies simply can’t afford.

“A lot of this is gonna hurt investment, hurt investors, hurt the economy,” he said. “It’s loaded up with taxes and restrictions; it does nothing to reduce anybody’s premium.”

Steinwall understands that health reform is needed, she just doesn’t want it to come at the expense of the small business person.

“It’s a real problem,” she said. “I am just disturbed that somehow, as a small business, I am caught in the middle.”

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