Small business owners cringe over new health care bill

Small business owners cringe over new health care bill
Sam Slom
Sam Slom

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

WAIMANALO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Small businesses make up around 98 percent of all Hawaii businesses.

Most of them rely heavily on part-timers. But some, including Nalo Farms may be forced to cut these workers.

Nalo Farms employs 18 full-time and five part-time workers. But as the healthcare reform bill moves one step closer to full ripeness, small businesses like this one, may harvest out some of its workers.

"I would do away with part-timers and go with full-timers because otherwise, I'm not able to spread out the cost of the healthcare benefits," Nalo Farms owner Dean Okimoto said.

Nalo Farms has been a family farm for over half a century. The farm supplies fresh-cut top quality greens to Hawaii's top restaurants daily. Its part-timers play a huge role in its operations.

"The sad part is our part-time workers are high school and college kids, so where do they get the experience in the long run for working if employers are gonna be looking at only full-time workers?" he asked.

But Congressional Democrats like Mazie Hirono say the bill will cover part-timers. Under the Hirono Amendment, only full-time employees and their employers who are part of Hawaii's prepaid health care act, are exempt from the health care reform bill.

"So that means the federal law is gonna apply to everybody else, such as part-time employees, we have a lot of part-time employees, people in Hawaii who don't have health insurance," Hirono said. "So there will be thousands and thousands of people in Hawaii who will enjoy the protections of the federal law."

Small Business Hawaii president, Senator Sam Slom has a different take. He feels small businesses may suffer because in the end, they'll be the ones footing the bill.

"What it'll mean is there'll be very few jobs created, people hired and in fact a lot of people that are full-time right now will probably go part-time," he said. "Small business people, all of us recognize we need change and improvements, this bill will not do that, instead of being historical, it's hysterical."

Congressman Neil Abercrombie gives much praise to this bill. He voted for it because he says it makes healthcare more affordable and accessible for Hawaii's families.