Local Business Owner Unsatisfied About Affordable Care Act

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FAYETTEVILLE—More than two years ago, Lisa Sharp, the owner of Nightbird Books, made local and national headlines when she benefited from President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a new small business tax credit that enabled her to provide affordable healthcare for her booksellers. Now, as the business dwindled to “very low margins,” Sharp is skeptical of its effectiveness.

“At Nightbird Books (which is a corporation), I offer a state subsidized insurance, Arkansas Health Networks, that is supported by Medicaid,” Sharp said. “It’s a relic from World War II and wage caps that shouldn’t be the framework for our insurance.”

According to Sharp, what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) essentially does is that “[it] reimburses me for a portion of the insurance payments, making it easier for me to continue providing insurance.”

The main asset of ACA is that it’s available to employers with low wage earners because the reimbursements “allow [small business owners] to use the savings to pay other bills” as well as “provide affordable health care coverage options” for employees.

“One of my best employees left in the middle of the year (of 2010) because she was offered a job with insurance and I perfectly understood why she needed to do that,” Sharp said, in reference to the early struggles she had before signed up for the ACA.

“Until I realized that I could get the 35 percent back [which the ACA offers] I really didn’t think that I would be able to afford it.”

“As en employee I’m very grateful,” said Roger Barrett, a bookseller at Nightbird Books. “I don’t think I’d have stayed without some sort of a health insurance.”

Windy Finn, the head of the Fayetteville Independent Business Alliance, declined commenting on ACA, because she felt that she couldn’t speak for them [other small business] on this issue.”

However, Sharp’s solution to ACA’s current weakness is simple. “Ideally, I would prefer to see insurance move away from employer-based,” because “ACA only requires businesses with 50 or more employees to provide insurance, and provides those of us with fewer a reimbursement for doing so any way. I think the next step needs to be getting costs under control.”

“That said, what we have is what we have,” Sharp said.

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