LEGISLATION: Big bills for small catalogers

Proposals would open way for group insurance plans, limit lawsuits

Two bills wending their way through Congress – a healthcare +imiting punitive damages – could help smaller catalogers.

The Quality Care for the Uninsured Act (H.R. 2990), sponsored by Reps. James Talent (R-MO) and John Shadegg (R-AZ), would allow small businesses to band together to purchase group health insurance through association health plans while also providing tax benefits to employees who buy their own health insurance. The House passed the bill in early October. As of early November, it was awaiting a vote by the Senate.

H.R. 2990 “opens the door to health coverage for millions of small businesses and their employees,” says Dan Danner, vice president of federal public policy for the Washington-based National Federation of Independent Business, a business advocacy group.

The bill could also better enable small catalogers to vie for employees in a tight labor market. “It would help us become more competitive, because we can’t buy group insurance for our employees as bigger companies can,” says Ava Salman, marketing director for High Country Gardens, a Santa Fe, NM-based $3 million-plus horticultural cataloger.

Likewise, Bill Heyman, co-owner of Marlborough, NH-based Supreme Audio, a $2.5 million-plus business-to-business audio products cataloger, says the healthcare bill “would be outstanding for all small and medium-size businesses that don’t have the individual insurance-buying power.” Supreme Audio doesn’t offer health insurance because of its high cost. “All of our employees happen to be insured through their spouses, who work for larger companies,” Heyman adds. “But this bill would help give us the flexibility to hire somebody who doesn’t have proper health insurance.”

Liability less of a concern

The small catalogers contacted by Catalog Age are less concerned with the second bill being considered, the Small Business Liability Reform Act (H.R. 2366). At press time, the House Judiciary Committee was expected to mark up, or fine-tune, the bill, which would limit punitive damages to $250,000 in judgments against businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

Such legislation “is a plus, but most catalogers should be insured under liability insurance,” says Bob Boker, president of Abracadabra Magic, a $1.5 million cataloger of magic items in Middlesex, NJ.

Heyman of Supreme Audio is less enthusiastic. “I’ve never thought of it as an issue,” he says. “I have commercial and product liability insurance, and if this legislation is enacted, I won’t reduce my coverage.”

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