Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Democratic Senators, Congresswoman, Small-Business Owners Discuss Impact of Health Insurance Reform on Small Businesses

Yesterday, Democratic Senators Tom Harkin [D-Ia., pictured] and Mary Landrieu [D-La.], and Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson [D-Ill.] joined Mike Draper, a small-business owner from Des Moines, Ia.; Gwendolyn Barnes, a small-business owner from Shreveport, La.; Dr. Ken Brantley, a small-business owner from Richmond, Va.; and other small-business owners from across the country at a press conference to discuss how health insurance reform will benefit small businesses.

Recent studies indicate that small businesses are likely to see their premiums rise 15% in the coming year -- double the rate of last year’s increase. Small businesses employ roughly 40% of the private labor force in America, making it crucial that we work to ensure affordability of health coverage for this central part of the American workforce.

"The status quo in health insurance spending for America’s small businesses is intolerable and it is unsustainable," said Sen. Harkin. "Today, we have a simple message for small-business owners across America: Help is on the way, and it comes in the form of a health reform plan that puts a stop to the discriminatory insurance industry practice of jacking up premiums for small businesses by up to 200 percent when an employee gets sick, or because the business hires a woman.

"Our bill will end the practice of denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or increasing premiums based on health status, gender, or industry. As I have said many times, the biggest winners in a reformed health system will be small-business owners and their employees."

Sen. Landrieu concurred."Small businesses are suffering from skyrocketing health insurance premiums that are eating into their bottom lines and threatening their survival," she declared. "As we continue to make progress toward comprehensive health care reform, Democrats are working to address the health care needs of small businesses. And while we may not yet completely agree on everything, one thing we can all agree on is that doing nothing is simply not an option."

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and right now health care costs are simply too much to bear," said Rep. Halvorson. "If we truly want our small businesses to help lead us out of our current economic troubles, we must act to reform health care. Small-business owners and their employees are depending on it. We must act now."

"We try to be flexible, but it's an expensive way to do it," Draper explained. "Right now, health insurance is a volatile commodity, such as oil -- the price swings, the price increases -- and it takes up a larger portion of a company’s budget. If the government were to provide a more stable option and take the market out of things, it would help settle business’s books; it would help them better predict the future. As a business owner, I wouldn't have to worry about finding policies, knowing what is covered, what isn't covered, and how much the company will end up paying."

"We started off with everybody on a group plan, but as the premiums continued to climb and climb, my employees had to start dropping out, so we switched to individual plans," said Barnes. "But one of my employees was denied for a pre-existing condition. And we've had trouble with the insurance company. When my daughter needed a surgery, they mysteriously took her off the surgery schedule. That's not right. It’s time to fix health care -- for small businesses like mine, and for the communities we serve."

"The lack of affordable health insurance hurts millions of small-business owners like me," Dr. Brantley added. "I would love to hire several highly skilled staff to work with me. This would balance the workload, expand our care, and create more jobs. It is virtually impossible, however, to find qualified applicants who will accept a job offer without health insurance benefits.

"The high cost of health care hurts my ability to create new jobs here in Virginia and retain skilled employees. Without competition and meaningful health care legislation, we will continue to see rising health insurance premiums each year that harm businesses and squeeze families."

GoodBiz113's take: Thankfully, President Barack Obama is committed to working with Congress to pass comprehensive health reform this year in order to control rising health care costs, guarantee choice of doctor, and assure high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans -- including small-business owners and their employees. To learn about President Obama's plan to deliver health care stability and security to all U.S. citizens, go to:

SOURCES: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, White House

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