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Local restaurateur laments health care reforms [Reading Eagle, Pa.]

By Dan Kelly, Reading Eagle, Pa.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 21--Local restaurateur Elsayed "Steve" Elmarzouky said Wednesday that he is finding it difficult to keep some of his 100 employees on a full-time basis because of the rising cost of health insurance.

Elmarzouky, who hosts the monthly breakfast meeting of the World Affairs Council of Greater Reading, made the comments during a presentation by Dr. Daniel B. Kimball Jr., former director of medicine at Reading Hospital.

Kimball was invited to the meeting held at Elmarzouky's Wyomissing Family Restaurant, 1245 Penn Ave., Wyomissing, to give the council an update on the status of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

"This policy already has a lot of small businessmen reducing their employee hours so they can escape from covering them and that really reflects how bad it is for the small business owner to have to cover their employees," Elmarzouky said.

"Especially when you own a restaurant that offers a $1.99 breakfast," he said. "How can you afford to do that?"

Elmarzouky said he had to leave the longtime health care insurance provider he chose for himself and his family because its rates about doubled in just the past year.

Kimball said Elmarzouky is not alone in his quandary: wanting to provide health insurance for his employees, but not being able to afford the premiums.

"Some employers, and I won't say all, game the system," Kimball said. "Wal-Mart does this all the time. They have their employees work less than 30 hours a week so they do not have to provide health insurance."

And business owners are not alone, Kimball said.

"The concern is that healthy families will choose to pay a penalty and go into a health insurance pool rather than pay premiums for private insurance," he said.

A study of Obamacare by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the penalty for an uninsured person, which would be assessed on their annual tax return, would be about $2,500 and the average cost of health insurance coverage is about $3,700.

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The study further found that private, public and nonprofit employers pay an average 70 percent for a family health insurance policy and 80 percent for single employees.

The study also found that some single employees are driven off their health care plan at work if their employer begins charging a deductible or higher deductible.

A shortcoming of the act is that about 500,000 of the poorest state residents still won't get any coverage because they won't realize any benefit from being covered. For the poor who get their care from clinics or hospital emergency rooms, the Affordable Care Act has little or no meaning, Kimball said.

Contact Dan Kelly: 610-371-5040 or [email protected].

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(c)2013 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.)

Visit the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.) at readingeagle.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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