New federal health insurance laws won’t be the job killers that critics fear, a U.S. Small Business Administration official said Thursday in Billings.
Matt Varilek, the agency’s regional administrator, said “uncertainty” remains for small businesses about law known as “Obamacare,” particularly about total costs. But he expects most will comply to remain competitive for employees.
“Most businesses want to provide health insurance and want to find an affordable way to do so,” Denver-based Varilek said at the Big Horn Resort for his agency’s celebration of Small Business Week in Montana.
In an interview with The Gazette, Varilek touted the lending, training, advocacy and other services provided by the Small Business Administration. He discussed other business topics in the region, including health care and attracting a quality workforce.
Critics have argued the new health care law is too burdensome for small businesses and will force them to stop hiring or even shed workers to comply. By 2016, businesses with more than 50 employees will be required to provide approved health insurance for employees or face federal penalties.
Small Business Administration officials said most business owners won’t limit growth because of the new law.
“That’s just not what entrepreneurs aspire to in Montana. They either want to stay really low, in the three-to-five employee range, or they want to grow large,” said Wayne Gardella, the agency’s Helena-based Montana district director.
Varilek also spoke at an awards luncheon. A former Democratic congressional candidate in South Dakota, he was appointed last year to lead the agency’s eight-state region.
Overall, the economy in these mid-Western state is faring well, particularly because of the growth in the Bakken oil fields centered in North Dakota, he said.
But a low unemployment rate means Montana is struggling to find enough employees in all jobs, Varilek said. Long-term, the key is education and workforce training for skilled tradesmen, but short term, it’s talking up what Montana offers, Varilek said.
“As people get to know Montana and what it offers, they will get to know what it offers for raising a family,” he said.