MOUNTAIN VIEW (KCBS) – The controversy over the Affordable Care Act landed in Silicon Valley Thursday as small businesses questioned a panel of experts about whether they could afford the costs associated with the new health insurance requirements.

Even as the Senate debated whether to defund Obamacare, the panel convened by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group fielded questions from entrepreneurs uncertain how to manage employee costs when the mandatory health insurance requirements take effect.

Bicycle shops, for example, would probably have to cut workers hours in order to remain profitable, said panelist Mike Sinyard, CEO of Specialized Bicycles.

“They’re concerned that it’s going to cost more,” he said. “I think some of the outcomes will be, they will have probably less employees. And maybe they won’t have as many full-time employees.”

Ken Wood, the panelist representing the state’s health insurance exchange, Covered California, said workers facing smaller checks may be eligible for tax credits to meet the health insurance requirements that take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

“A single employee working in a bike shop, if they’re earning under $44,000 a year, would be eligible for a tax credit to help make insurance affordable,” Wood said.

Consumers will be able to buy insurance through the health insurance exchange starting on October 1.

Others on the panel extolled the benefits of the law, particularly for people with prior conditions that make health insurance expensive, or even impossible, to buy.

“I’m a cancer survivor. I’m very healthy. I cycle all the time, and so I have more than a business interest in this. I have a real personal interest in this,” said Gary Lauer, CEO of eHealth, which is helping the government to set up insurance exchanges.

Lauer noted that his son, a Stanford graduate now in medical school, was also uninsurable because he suffers from Type 1 diabetes, would also benefit from the law.

“My son is a high user of insurance, and so we need other people who are healthy who don’t use a lot but put revenue into the system. And whether it’s Kaiser that underwrites this or the government, the math is all the same,” Lauer said.

Most on the panel held at the Computer History Museum of Mountain View agreed that businesses and individuals need to do their homework to find out how health care reform will affect them.

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