Dyker Heights

Brooklyn business owners balk at Obamacare

December 3, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan and insurance company owner Nicole Silvestri discuss the effects of the Affordable Care Act on businesses. Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Donovan’s office
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From Dyker Heights to Park Slope, owners of small businesses all over Brooklyn are saying that they’re shelling out so much money for health insurance these days, it’s making them sick.

And they’re blaming the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.

In Dyker Heights, the owners of Frank J. Silvestri Insurance, Inc., a firm that has been on 13th Avenue for 50 years, told U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan that reforms enacted by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have caused their family’s insurance premiums to skyrocket to $25,000 per year, consuming resources that would otherwise go to growing their business and paying their employees.

In Park Slope, the owners of Franny’s, a popular pizzeria, have added a three percent surcharge to food orders to help cover the cost of providing health insurance to their employees.

Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) met with the Silvestri owners on Nov. 30 at their office at 7408 13th Ave. and got an earful about how health insurance costs are hurting the business.

Nicole Silvestri, who runs the business with her husband, Robert Silvestri, told Donovan that her family’s premiums have doubled over the last six years. “It’s tough enough to run a small business in New York City without having to pay $25,000 per year in health premiums. They said Obamacare would make coverage better and more affordable, but my family has been dropped by two carriers and our premiums have doubled in six years,” she said.

The ACA went into effect in 2010, although major portions of sweeping legislation did not go into effect until last year.

“Obamacare is squeezing the middle class,” Donovan said. “The very wealthy have been able to afford higher insurance premiums and the poor receive generous subsidies, but those in the middle, like the Silvestris, are paying higher premiums for worse coverage they can barely afford. The ‘Un-Affordable Care Act’ would be more a more apt title.”

A $25,000 annual health insurance premium adds a financial burden that many families cannot sustain, Donovan said.

“To sustain itself, Obamacare requires young, healthy Americans to pay higher insurance premiums to cover the sick and poor,” Donovan said. “But young, healthy Americans are already burdened with student loans, rising rents, cell phone bills and living expenses. Even if they purchase the cheapest coverage possible, the sky-high deductibles keep them out of the doctor’s office anyway, undermining the concept of ‘preventive care’ that is supposed to drive costs down,”

Meanwhile, the owners of Franny’s at 348 Flatbush Ave. have found themselves in the media spotlight over their controversial decision to offset the $200,000 a year it costs them to provide health insurance for their employees by tacking a three percent surcharge to all checks.

Under the ACA, business owners who employ fewer than 50 full-time workers are not obligated to cover their health insurance costs. Businesses that have 50 or more employees are mandated to cover them or face potential fines of approximately $2,000 per worker.

The proprietors of Franny’s own other restaurants, and taken together, their eateries employ more than 50 workers.

“This is a cost that we cannot absorb without going out of business,” owner Francine Stephens told the New York Daily News. “We’re quite sensitive to raising prices too much, so we wanted to offer transparency.”

Supporters of the ACA argued that the law has made it possible for tens of millions of Americans who previously did not have health insurance to acquire it. Americans who qualify can receive subsidies to help pay for the insurance.

Other provisions of the law are an insurance company cannot drop a policy holder if the person becomes sick, insurance companies cannot charge women more than men and small businesses with fewer than 25 full time employees can receive tax credits of up to 50 percent of the costs of insurance for the workers, according to the website www.obamacarefacts.com.

The current enrollment period for the ACA began on Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2016.


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