In a letter to the Laramie Boomerang last week, Subway and Bagelmakers franchise owner Tim Woodward wrote that if President Obama wins re-election, and the Affordable Health Care Act stands, he would sell off two-thirds of his stores by 2014, cancel health insurance for managers, and shift full-time line workers to less than 30 hours a week. The open letter angered a number of area residents who have planned to boycott businesses Woodward and his brother, Rob, operate in Wyoming and Colorado.
Terry Gardiner is a former small-business owner and vice president of Policy and Strategy for the nonpartisan nonprofit, Small Business Majority.
Gardiner helped bring franchise owners like Woodward to meet with congressional committees during the drafting of the Affordable Care Act. Gardiner says that although he supports the Act, he is sympathetic to the specific challenges facing franchise owners like Woodward.
"I think franchise owners are frustrated because they’ve been talking to members of congress about their special problem and congress isn’t doing anything. Congress is in general in gridlock. There are no committees working on health care in any way."
The special problem for franchises, according to Gardiner, lies in their numbers. He says Congress chose to focus tax credits on businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees because many cannot afford to provide health insurance, while 96 percent of businesses with more than 50 employees already do. The 4 percent of those bigger businesses that don’t offer insurance? He says these are mainly franchises, who depend on keeping costs low to make a profit. If those owner don’t offer insurance, they face fines, which is why Tim Woodward would cut hours for his employees.
Nevertheless, Gardiner says the lack of health insurance must be addressed.
"Whoever is elected president is going to have to do something about the cost of health care to keep America competitive. If we had fixed health care 20 years ago, maybe the author and owner of the franchise business would still be able to afford health care for all employees, not just a select few," he says.
Senator Mike Enzi has said that he’d like a chance to reform the health care law as it applies to small business owners.