Chef Chang: Absorb Obamacare Costs And Do Right By Workers

Chef Joanne Chang
Chef Joanne Chang

WBUR's Cognoscenti posts a column today by restaurateur and celebrity chef Joanne Chang that will surely be of wide interest to her food-industry colleagues around the country — and other small business owners as well. She says, in effect, that yes, the federal health reform known as Obamacare will add to your business costs by requiring health insurance for employees, but it is wrong to reduce good employees' hours in order to avoid getting them covered.

She begins with a question she heard at a recent meeting of restaurant professionals:

“If Obamacare stays in place, will you reduce your staff’s hours so that they are no longer full-time and thus you won’t have to cover them under your health plan?” And her response:

As the only business owner from Massachusetts, where a health care law that closely resembles the president’s Affordable Care Act has been in place for the last five years, I shared my experience (and tried to hide my shock). No, we did not reduce hours — nor did we even consider it. If someone strong is working for you, it seems counterintuitive to have them work less, even if it costs you a bit more.

My business has absorbed the costs associated with the new health mandate in the same way we absorb rising fuel surcharges or higher prices of flour. They cut into our profit, sure, but when I weigh the cost of paying staff to cover for chronically sick employees who don’t see a doctor because they don’t have one, or the pressure of knowing that my 24-year-old barista can’t afford coverage because he only makes $10 an hour, I willingly take the cut to my bottom line.

Read the full post here.

This program aired on October 25, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Carey Goldberg

Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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