News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 5, 2013

Obamacare 'bad scenario' for many workers, businessman tells senator

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Scott Womack, the owner of IHOP in Terre Haute, is concerned about the impact of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — on his business.

He’s concerned about the cost, and in addition, many of his employees are telling him “they don’t think they can afford to buy the [health insurance] coverage from us,” he said. Even if the employee premium is only $1,000 or $1,500 annually, many can’t afford it.

In some cases, they may be better off working fewer hours, which “opens to them a whole world of subsidies.” But in Womack’s view, “That’s a bad scenario for everyone.”

Womack was one of several business, education and community leaders who met with Sen. Joe Donnelly Thursday as part of the senator’s “Hoosier JobsRoots” tour. Donnelly conducted a roundtable at Indiana State University to talk about ways to create more Hoosier jobs.

Donnelly, a Democrat and first-term senator from South Bend, encouraged businesses with questions and concerns about the Affordable Care Act to contact his office. “If we don’t have the exact answer, we’ll try to run down somebody who does,” he said.

His office can assist with interpretation of the law, and perhaps in some specific areas, “We can change legislation to be more business friendly,” he said while talking to reporters.

In meeting with business and community leaders across the state, the overall message Donnelly’s heard and plans to take back to Washington is that “we have to live within our means, we have to have a budget that makes sense, we have to work hard to grow our economy and we have to stand up for small business.”

As Congress continues to wrestle with the federal deficit, the priority must be a budget “that balances revenues and spending cuts. Anybody who tells you it can all be done through spending cuts isn’t being true. Anybody who tells you it can all be done with revenues isn’t being true to you,” Donnelly said.

It can be done, “if we focus on just trying to do what is right and not worrying about the political rhetoric,” he said. The “vast majority” of those in Congress are working together to try and get it done, he said.

In talking about job creation, he noted that thousands of jobs are going unfilled throughout the state because workers lack the high skills needed for those jobs. That’s something he wants to address.

He’s co-sponsor of the America Works Act, which would focus federal funding on training programs recognized and demanded by industry.

The goal is to train more workers for jobs in industries where there is a serious skills gap.

Donnelly also talked about ways to help college students graduate with less debt. That would include protecting Pell grants and keeping interest rates on student loans at 3.4 percent, he said.

Reducing students’ college loan debt would be good for the economy, he said. Income now spent to pay off those loans could instead be used to buy a home, car or other items. “It’s a drag on the economy when students come out with so much debt,” Donnelly said.

In concluding his visit with Terre Haute leaders, Donnelly said, “You knock my socks off with so much of what you do here,” from education, to health care, to business, he said. “It’s tremendous.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.