Small restaurant owner: Health-care ruling provides certainty, critical tax credits


Makini Howell says the health-care ruling gives her more confidence she will get the best value for her employees’ insurance premiums. (JASON REED/REUTERS)
June 28, 2012

This is a great day for my business and for small businesses across America.

I own three restaurants and a commercial kitchen in Seattle, Wash., and I employ 30 people between my businesses. I grew up in the family business that my parents started in Tacoma making their own line of food products.

After spending most of my twenties working in corporate America in New York City, I moved back to the Northwest and back to my small business roots. Building off my parents’ vision, I started my own group of restaurants.

I knew that if we wanted to grow, we needed to attract a great team of cooks and servers who were talented, committed, and motivated to help build the business. Offering health insurance was big on my list, but it seemed completely out of reach on a small business budget.

Then, President Obama’s health care reform law came along. When I crunched the numbers, I found out that the law’s health care tax credit for small businesses would immediately cut 20 percent off the cost of insuring my employees. And in 2014, when the law’s fully in effect, that tax credit goes up to about one-third of my costs.

Suddenly, providing health insurance wasn’t just something I dreamed of doing – it was something I actually could do. About three months ago, right around the two-year anniversary of the law, I began enrolling my employees in a health insurance plan for the first time. Let me tell you – that felt good!

Other provisions of the law give me confidence that I’ll be getting value for my premiums – new marketplaces that will give small businesses better bargaining power, as well as the requirement that insurers spend at least 80 percent of our premiums on health care rather than administrative overhead, marketing, lobbying or profits.

I hope the Supreme Court’s ruling today upholding the Affordable Care Act settles the political debate about health care. In my business, I feel like I’ve now got greater certainty that I can count on the law’s health care tax credits and start getting ready for enrolling in the exchange in 2014.

In the months ahead, I know other small businesses will benefit from hearing simple practical information about how to take advantage of all the things health care reform has to offer them, rather than trying to decipher a continual barrage of political white noise.

Makini Howell owns Plum Bistro, an organic and vegan restaurant in Seattle, Wash.

Flip side: California business owner says ruling means outsourcing jobs, layoffs

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