Health care reform has small business owners concerned

SACRAMENTO — From afar, Nathan Carnahan has monitored the health care debate unfolding in Washington, D.C. He confesses uncertainty about how it will play out, and fears government mandates could add to his firm's cost of doing business.

As members of Congress fan out into their districts to lead discussions on health care, small businesses are bracing for profound changes in the role they play in the country's health care system.

Carnahan's employer, Rack N Road, sells and installs automobile racks. Last year, the Sacramento firm shuttered two of its 10 stores and laid off employees. To further cut costs, the company even closed its corporate office &mash; forcing its executives to work from home.

"I still don't know how it will impact the business," Carnahan, the company's director of human resources, said of pending health care legislation. "There's still so much out there that's unknown."

Carnahan wonders whether the plan that emerges will require his company to provide health coverage to 42 part-time employees. "Would it break us? Probably not. But it would make life much more difficult," Carnahan said.

The company pays about $15,000 monthly to provide medical, dental and vision coverage to 25 full-time employees across its eight locations in California, Washington and Utah. It doesn't provide coverage to its 42 part-time staffers because of the substantial cost, Carnahan said.

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