Exclusive Q&A: Obamacare & the Smaller C-Store Retailer

Robinson Oil president on what Affordable Care Act may do to small businesses

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Tom Robinson, Robinson Oil

Tom Robinson

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- For smaller business owners concerned about the ramifications of the impending Affordable Care Act (ACA), the postponement of the law’s enforcement for many may only prolong the impact of any number of related forces, according to a 34-store convenience retailer.

In its April cover story, CSP magazine reviews the current state of the 2010 law and explores its impact on retailers. While researching the matter, editors spoke to several retailers, among them, Tom Robinson, former chairman of NACS and someone clearly intent on understanding the bigger picture.

The president of Robinson Oil Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., spent some time with CSP Daily News, reviewing his concerns over what many are calling “Obamacare,” a moniker seemingly embraced by both sides of the political aisle.

Here is that question-and-answer session:

Q: What’s your current strategy with regards to health care?

A: We already provide health insurance for our hourly employees. What’s going to happen to us is that our benefits will be broader and more expensive. We’re going to have to make a few changes, but as far as compliance, it’s not complicated. It’s just money. Just because there’s more expenses or difficulties dealing with regulations, we don’t think it’s prudent to take it out on our employees.

Q: You’ve mentioned your concern about how health care plays into the bigger picture and the cost for smaller companies to stay in business. Can you elaborate?

A: What I see more concerning is not only are companies having an additional cost with health care, but we’re seeing cities and states raising the minimum wage. The federal government is also talking about such a raise. So the question becomes: “Who pays?” Generally, in service businesses, where the competition is other local service businesses, those costs get passed to the consumer. So you’ve got a higher cost to the consumer and eventually inflation.

Now, I make it sound easy that a business will just pass along the cost, but it’s a process that larger or stronger companies can do better than smaller or financially weaker companies.

Q: But when you refer to smaller companies, what do you mean? For instance, companies with 50 or fewer employees, are exempt from ACA.

A: Yes, but they’ll have to compete with companies that offer health care. It’s impacting small businesses in multiple ways.

Q: How much of the minimum-wage debate and even the passage of Obamacare do you think is political?

A: From my perspective, much of this is about red-herring labor issues. I think what has happened is that the [Obama] Administration in particular and Congress to a degree has done such a poor job coming out of recession that they need other things to tout.

Q: It doesn’t sound like you’re optimistic about these issues and law that’s in place.

A: I’d like to see it work. I’m not against the idea of improving coverage, having more broad-based coverage and cost containment. If we do get better quality [health care] at a better price, that would be ideal. So I’m not negative, but I’m just not terribly optimistic it’s going to achieve the desired effect.

For more on Obamacare and its potential effects on the c-store channel, see the April issue of CSPmagazine.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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