Several CEO’s, like Papa John’s John Schnatter, have made headlines in the last few weeks saying that Obamacare will force them to raise prices. Ian’s Pizza part-time owner Nick Martin thinks it’s about time national chains have to take care of their employees.
Martin told the Huffington Post that he thinks Obamacare “might level the playing field.” Ian’s has been offering full health benefits to its 50 full-time employees for years, and Martin says that if national chains have to charge a little more, it will “justify what we’ve been paying for and what we’ve been fighting to do the past few years.”
The reality is that first and foremost this is a political statement coming from Schnatter. He held a fundraiser for Romney in August and may just be trying to stir the pot. The fact that he made a national news story out of what ABC news reported would be a 14-cent increase in the cost of a pizza (and might be more like 3 or 4 cents) is a little ridiculous.
Second of all, this is a man who shows up every Sunday and smiles with Peyton Manning as he promises to give away two million pizzas. I have to imagine that if Papa John’s can afford promotions like that, paying for the small fraction of full time employees they currently don’t cover won’t be too hard.
What is interesting in this discussion is the difference between the reaction of a few large corporations and one small business. So much of what I have been reading is that every small business is going to start cutting full time employees to try to stay under the 50 full time employee threshold. But instead, here is a case of a small business owner standing up and saying they already offer their employees full health coverage and have done so ever since they could afford it.
Papa John’s, on the other hand, a company that posted $1.2 billion in revenue and $55.7 million in net income last year, comes out talking about how they can’t handle these costs and have to push them on to the customer.
Now, I’m not saying the health care benefits Ian’s provides for its employees aren’t also making their way into the cost of a slice. That is the very nature of a business – incur costs and translate them into appropriate revenue. But as CEOs with big microphones like Schnatter stand up and talk about how much trouble providing health insurance is going to cause them, looking at how a small business which is competing against them directly handles the same issue is more interesting.
Why is the little guy already doing it without bemoaning his role, while an employer with the billion-dollar company treats adding a couple employees to its health plan like it’s a crisis?
Because it is about politics much more than it is about economics for Papa John’s. I hope that Nick Martin’s comments get as much coverage as the John Schnatter comments have, because while Schnatter’s comments make for a great headline, what Martin has done as a small business owner offers a valuable insight into the future of health care coverage. If Martin thinks that Obamacare may actually help his business by leveling the playing field, this would run directly against the narrative that “Obamacare is bad for small business.”
Bottom line – it’s just nice to see a Madison business explaining how it already provides insurance for its employees and standing up to a company with a billion dollar revenue stream. As people continue to irrationalize the healthcare debate, it’s always good to hear someone step up and say, yeah, we already do that.
I heard about Martin’s comments from Ruth Conniff, who stopped by a journalism class of mine yesterday. Go check out her story in the “Isthmus” today to hear more about Ian’s side of the story.
John Waters (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a junior majoring in journalism.