Businesses in holding pattern for healthcare costs

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants the healthcare legislation challenge to go directly to the US Supreme Court. Business owners are eager to hear how a final ruling will impact their bottom lines but are essentially in a holding pattern when it comes to their budgets as the healthcare battle winds its way through the court system. One told NBC12 when it comes to business, there's nothing worse than uncertainty.

As a business owner, after salaries and taxes, paying healthcare benefits is your largest expense. But what would happen if you were to try and craft your budget with a question mark next to that line item? Until the healthcare legislation challenges reach the nation's highest court, that's likely what CEOs will have to do.

James River Air Conditioning president Hugh Joyce pays these benefits to 165 employees.

"You've got a bill that pieces are implementing every couple of weeks or every month there's a new piece and now they start saying, 'well it's unconstitutional so it may be struck down'" he said. "So we don't know what's going to happen."

Right now Joyce pays about a half a million dollars in healthcare benefits each year. It represents six percent of his entire expense budget. He can't know for sure just how much that number will fluctuate as the issue continues to evolve.

So for the time being, he has decided to hold off taking on any new workers.

"It is a very difficult and expensive process to bring a person on and you've got this kind of uncertainty with a huge expense item, we've said as a business we're going to sit tight," he explained.

And Joyce maintains if other owners have the same line of thinking, the consequences will be far reaching.

"It is certainly holding back future growth because people are concerned and when you are concerned and you're scared you don't do things," he said. "You kind of hunker down and say I'm going to wait. So the quicker we can get certainty back in the system, I think the faster you'll see our economy moving."

We're told the Justice Department will appeal Monday's decision to the Fourth Circuit. Attorney General Cuccinelli said the case will likely be heard by the US Supreme Court roughly two years from today.

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