Will You Offer Workers Healthcare, or Pay $2,000? A Daily Dose Poll

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Many small businesses are still scrambling to grasp what federal healthcare reform will mean for them. Some are still in denial, hoping the healthcare bill can still be given a "mandate-ectomy," or that their industry will be exempted.

Possibly no industry has been more focus on reform impacts than restaurant. In this business, it's all but impossible to operate without employees. But margins are slim, making healthcare a perennial challenge.

Which raises the question of what will happen in 2014, when key provisions of the reform bill take effect and more businesses are required to provide insurance or pay a $2,000-per-worker penalty.

At recent restaurant-industry conferences in Los Angeles and New York, some operators said they're braced for nearly 30 percent increases in their healthcare costs.

But here was the really troubling thing: The forecast coming out of these events was that many restaurant owners who don't currently offer healthcare insurance won't be providing healthcare in 2014, either. Instead -- despite a 50 percent tax credit on premiums for companies with 10 or fewer workers -- many restaurant owners may elect to pay the $2,000-a-head penalty.

Which would sort of defeat the purpose of a big hunk of the bill. There's supposed to be $40 billion in small-business tax relief coming, and more healthcare coverage for more Americans. What if that doesn't happen? 

There've been a lot of doomsday reports that have come in the wake of the healthcare bill. One Republican report proclaimed the law will cause the loss of 800,000 jobs.

But this is one of those situations where it's really hard to know how this is going to work out in practice.

So we're taking a poll here on the Daily Dose blog to try to find out.

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