Four years ago, my reporting on Obamacare brought me to the city of Terre Haute, Ind. Located near the Illinois’ border, about an hour’s drive from Indianapolis, the city of 60,000 residents reminded me of the area where I grew up near Utica, N.Y.
It was a brisk March morning, nearly a year after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, and I had trekked to the Midwest with a camera crew to meet Scott Womack, owner of about a dozen IHOP restaurants in Indiana and Ohio.
Womack’s testimony before Congress earlier in 2011 caught my attention and I wanted to visit him at one of his restaurants to see firsthand how Washington’s policymaking had impacted his work.
The IHOP in Terre Haute is located on South 3rd Street, just a few minutes from the Interstate 70 interchange and a short drive from the Holiday Inn where we had stayed the night before. As we sat in the back of the bustling restaurant waiting for Womack to arrive, we ordered french toast, omelettes and other IHOP specialities.
At the time, Womack employed about 1,000 people at his 12 restaurants. When the Affordable Care Act became law on March 23, 2010, he had big plans for his franchise. He had purchased a development agreement in 2006 that would expand the company to 14 new IHOP locations in Ohio.
“You have to fund your development through your profits,” Womack said during my 2011 visit to Terre Haute. “And if you have no profits, you’re not building restaurants.”
During his testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, Womack said those plans were now in jeopardy—and with it hundreds of jobs, not just at his restaurants but also in industries such as construction and manufacturing that would support his expansion.