Jeffrey Scheininger, president of Flexline/U.S. Brass and Copper Corporation in Linden, recently experienced his least favorite day of the year: The day when he gets his insurance renewal. This year alone, his premiums rose 36 percent — 2 percent of sales — after going up 18 percent the year before. “That’s stunning,” he says.
Scheininger will be one of eight featured speakers at the “Business Summit on Healthcare: A Framework for Reform” on Tuesday, December 8, at 8:30 a.m. at the Crown Plaza in Jamesburg. Cost: $195. Visit www.njchamber.com, or call 908-975-3211.
The conference is designed for business leaders to analyze the changes to healthcare reform and how those changes will affect company operations.
The other speakers will be Katie Strong Hays, executive director of congressional and public affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Jeffrey Brenner of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Sue Hassmiller, advisor for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Robert Wise, president of Hunterdon Medical Center; Susan Bakewell-Sachs, dean of the School of Nursing at TCNJ; Pat Orchard of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ; and Sonia Delgado of Princeton Public Affairs Group.
Scheininger, who grew up in Linden and now lives in Westfield, completed his undergraduate studies at Union College and received his MBA from Cornell. He runs a second-generation business started in 1950, which has 15 employees and manufactures specialty hose assemblies for industry. He has been the chairman of the Platform Progress for Healthcare Reform Initiative since 2004.
“I’ve already done a pretty thorough analysis of the House bill as it is and the effects that it has on small businesses,” he says. “I’m very concerned about the firms that are paying for health care for their employees — and in some cases for their dependents — and what this legislation is going to do to those guys.”
Know new taxes. “The normal mantra you might hear is people concerned about the local pizzeria and whether or not they will continue to stay open if they have to get healthcare,” Scheininger says. “That’s a non-argument, because even the House bill has restricted what happens to firms with payrolls under $500,000 a year.”
His primary concern is the proposal of a tax on individuals who report more than $350,000 on their annual income tax returns. Scheininger believes the House bill will strap an extra tax onto small business owners who report their business profits as personal income — subchapter S corporations. It is a type of tax that large corporations don’t have to pay.
“Do you know that most of those $1 million-a-year returns are not wealthy families doing really well?” he asks. “They are not Wall Street hedge fund guys. They are small business returns. They are corporate returns.”
Scheininger is offended by the idea that major corporations will get away with something. “Who is adding jobs in this economy?” he asks. “Verizon? Microsoft? General Motors? “The only job engine we have left in this country is small businesses. What they are going to do is starve them for capital.”
Where’s the competition? One important item Scheininger believes is missing from the bill is interstate competition, a lack of which creates inflated markets here. “We already know in this state what can happen when insurers have to compete across state lines,” he says. “What were the Democrats and Republicans afraid of that they wouldn’t allow Keystone Blue Cross/Blue Shield to compete against Aetna in NJ?”
Other steps Scheininger believes the government needs to take include reforming Medicaid to cover the income-qualified people, implementing leapfrog standards, and making available hospital report cards on the Internet that would indicate infection rates and mortality rates. “All that information that would begin to treat the consumer like a consumer would go a long way towards really reforming the system,” he says.
What Scheininger hopes comes out of the summit is a survival guide for the people who come. “We are not getting any of the true reforms that we were promised,” he says. “Therefore, we’re going to have a new landscape that is quite, quite difficult.”
“We have a unique problem, he says. “We come from a state that has already declared war on its private enterprise and has already driven it out onto its knees. If the federal government is now going to layer on to what our state has done, then economic activity, which is always just at the breaking point, could really collapse.”