The Affordable Care Act uses a financial penalty to get people to purchase health insurance. But the law also offers tax breaks for small businesses to encourage them to provide health coverage.
Plum Bistro in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood is one of those small businesses that's started providing health coverage. The restaurant is in the fourth year of a five-year plan to turn a profit and to offer health coverage to all its employees who work 30 hours or more a week.
"It's a financial leap," said Makini Howell, Plum Bistro owner.
The restaurant's operations manager says successful restaurants average about 8-9 percent profit. There is little leftover for employee benefits.
"Restaurants really live day by day," said J.P Jefferson, operations manager.
But under health care reform, small businesses like Howell's get a tax break if they provide health insurance.
Sous chef Bernard Wascher is one of the first employees to get health insurance. Wascher has a wife and three kids. The business pays 75 percent of his premium.
"It's there. You know you are taken care of," said Wascher.
Not every small business qualifies for the tax break. The business can't have more than 25 full time employees and the average wage must be less than $50,000 a year.
"It's a way to get and retain good employees," said Howell.
Howell's plan is to provide more employees with insurance next year and eventually pay 100 percent of their premiums, including dental and vision coverage.
"It's like you invest in the equipment in your restaurant," said Howell. "You need to invest in your employees as well."
A representative of a small business group said many businesses find the tax break too complicated and too confusing; however, Howell said it works for her.