Some of those who run Long Island's tens of thousands of small businesses are worried and a bit uncertain over the impact on them of health care reform signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama. Some fear unintended consequences, including higher insurance premiums to a reduced number of insurance companies.
"I'm distraught," said Mark Miller, president of Miller Environmental, a high-tech industrial cleanup company in Calverton, who pays about $1 million a year to cover most of the cost of his 150 employees' medical coverage.
He's worried, he said, that extending coverage to people now uninsured will strain health care personnel and infrastructure, driving up costs.
"We're going to have 32 million more people in the system," he said. "There is not going to be a commensurate rise in health care workers."
Physician Phil Ragno, who employs 130 at his practice, Island Cardiac Specialists in Garden City, and directs the cardiovascular health and wellness program at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, has similar concerns.
He also is worried that, as the workload increases, treatment provided now by physicians increasingly will have to be delegated to assistants. And he thinks competition from the government will put some insurance companies out of business, reducing competition.
"I think in some ways it will restrict trade and treatment down the road," he said of the reform package.
Beginning in 2014, the legislation signed by Obama requires companies with more than 50 workers to provide health care for employees or face possible fines. Most large companies already provide health benefits.
Some smaller businesses see little impact from the reform. "It shouldn't affect us at all," said president Edward J. Fred of CPI Aerostructures Inc. of Edgewood, who has 95 workers covered by insurance.
But there's concern even among some executives whose companies are below the 50-employee threshold.
At Allen Machine Products in Hauppauge, whose 40 employees have company health coverage, president Peter Allen worries that reform will mean higher premiums but, so far, hasn't gotten answers from his insurance broker. "He said nothing is signed, sealed and delivered, and it's all open to change," said Allen.
In a similar limbo awaiting clarity is car dealer Mark Calisi, who employs about 100 people at Eagle Auto Mall in Riverhead and covers them at a cost of about $80,000 a month.
"It's not clear," he said. "Only time will tell. But from what I see, it looks like premiums will go up."