Health care reform will likely have a broad impact on the small business community, which the legislation defines as firms with 100 or fewer workers.
There's a lot of uncertainty -- if not fear -- about what health care reform will do to small-business finances and operations. Regardless, most provisions will take a few years to kick in.
One local small-business entrepreneur who is familiar with the issues said there is a lot of upside to the bill -- especially for firms already offering health coverage.
"What the bill does for the small business people is, it gives you a 50 percent credit for the premium costs you pay," said Vincent Mudd, owner and chief executive of San Diego Office Interiors. "So if your premiums are $100,000, you're going to get $50,000 credit right away."
Mudd, whose Kearny Mesa firm has 43 employees, has served on the state's Compensation Insurance Fund board.
In an interview Monday, he said the worker's compensation model of universal health coverage benefits businesses large and small by widening the pool of insured, bringing down costs for insurers -- and the premiums they charge.
Mudd said the bill also addresses the hidden costs of subsidizing employers whose workers are uninsured but get health care from worker's compensation and emergency rooms. He noted that there are medical premiums contained in a variety of insurance policies that could be dropped once universal care is in effect.
"We're going to thin that out now," Mudd said. "It's a capitalist approach. I'm a pure capitalist. I believe in maximizing my profits. I don't believe that my business should be maximizing some other's business's profits."
This acknowledgement of all that came Monday from an insured employers group that opposed the legislation:
"What the [House of Representatives] did [Sunday] was kind of start to level that playing field a little bit," said Andrew Berg, executive manager of the San Diego and Imperial counties chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Associataioon. "We think that's the right thing to do. "That is good for our members. If we could clean up some other parts of it, that would be outstanding."
Berg said that while NECA objected to taxation of the so-called Cadillac plans offered by large trade groups and unions, the underlying concept of health care reform was seen as generally acceptable.
"If the 22-year-old [worker] who's healthy and doesn't have a family now has to get insurance, too," Berg said in an interview Monday, "that makes it a little better for the family man or somebody who's not quite so healthy."
The basic requirement is that, starting in 2014, firms with more than 50 workers have to offer employee heal thcare or be penalized $750 a year per full-timer. If the Senate adopts the House amendments, the penalty for non-coverage would jump to $2,000.
According to Mudd, 95 percent percent of the businesses in San Diego have 50 or fewer employees.