Obamacare Upheld, Small Business Community Divided

The Supreme Court on Thursday handed down its historic ruling on the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, largely upholding the law. The individual mandate portion of the Act, at the heart of the National Federation of Independent Business’ case against Obamacare, will now stand as a tax.

The ruling shocked much of the small-business community, including the NFIB, which has been at the center of the fight to strike down the law. Karen Harned, chief legal counsel for the group, said the decision means more taxes and mandates for small-business owners.

“We are greatly disappointed that the Supreme Court did not uphold the 11th Circuit Court’s decision on the health-care law,” Harned said. “This may go down in history as the day Americans lost their freedom to choose what they want to buy with their own money, having government tell them they must choose and purchase a product.”

The ruling will also be at the center of the political arena heading into the 2012 elections, as Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal the law. Harned said the Supreme Court’s decision only furthers the overwhelming uncertainty small-business owners face regarding taxes and regulation.

“This [decision] keeps in place one of the biggest uncertainties small-business owners have been facing over the past couple of years for families and employees,” Harned said.

Ray Keating, chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, echoed Harned’s sentiments and said he believes taxes will increase across the board.

“This law, as we have been arguing all along, is bad for small business,” Keating said. “There are assorted taxes and regulatory costs tied to this, and I think a lot of people are shocked.”

Keating said regardless of today’s outcome, health-care would be an important factor in the 2012 elections, and what happens next depends on Congress’ actions.

“The fight does go on,” he said. “In no way, shape or form does this mean it’s over, and this will only intensify during the political campaign.”

Small-business owner Shawn Cochran of Branches PSP said the ruling is an attack on personal freedoms, and that it will make him more adverse to hiring new workers, due to the added costs. All business owners with more than 50 employees will be required to supply their workers with insurance beginning in 2014, or face a tax.

“Business owners will have to pick up that whole bill,” Cochran said. “This will be a huge factor in who and how we hire—whether we bring on full-time employees or individual contractors. This directly affects the business decisions we make and the way companies will move forward.”

The Small Business Majority, on the other hand, declared the decision a “victory” for small-business owners seeking relief from the high cost of health care.

“The Affordable Care Act tackles small business owners’ top priorities when it comes to health-care reform: cost and accessibility. The law will significantly rein in costs while providing more health coverage options for entrepreneurs,” John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the Small Business Majority, said in a statement.