Small business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the US are facing impossible choices because of the skyrocketing costs of health insurance premiums, and, in many cases, the lack of access to coverage. Here are some of their stories.
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Hatch Family Chocolates | Salt Lake City, UT
Salt Lake City chocolate shop:
High cost of insurance starts with owners
Genetic condition makes insurance expensive
Stephen Hatch and his wife, Katie Masterson, are well known by chocolate lovers in Salt Lake City as the friendly couple who own the shop downtown that sells great dipped chocolates and other treats. Their business has been a hit, but its growth is hampered by the high cost of health insurance premiums for Hatch and Masterson.
They are both little people, born with genetic conditions of short stature. Hatch's condition, known as pseudoachondroplasia, means that he is more likely to suffer from arthritis and other joint problems. But the pair is otherwise young and healthy.
Health insurance companies, though, have been wary of providing them coverage, and the couple has watched their premiums go up steeply over the past few years, from $600 to $876 per month. They even had their coverage canceled when they got married a few years ago. The insurer said they no longer constituted a small group (of two employees) to qualify for a small business health plan and would have to buy family coverage. Another company stepped in with their current plan, but the price keeps going up.
Because of the high costs, providing health insurance to their employees has been out of the question. In fact, the 10 people who work at the chocolate shop are all part-timers. Hatch would like to hire full-time help, and there are plenty of well-qualified applicants, but they expect to get health coverage as part of the deal.
"We would be better off medically if we were to close our shop, claim disability and go on Medicaid."
Medicaid could be a better option than being in business
If the cost of health insurance goes up much more, Hatch says, they may have to call it quits. "We would be better off medically if we were to close our shop, claim disability and go on Medicaid," he says. "The despair of knowing that eventually we will be without health insurance is a depressing contrast to the joy of having our very own successful chocolate shop."
"The reality is that anyone can become uninsurable."
Financial disaster is just a diagnosis away
Hatch believes it's time for a fairer system that provides healthcare coverage for every American and allows people like him and Katie to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. "Without a change to our healthcare system Katie and I, as well as thousands of others, will find themselves without health insurance," he says.
The troubling thing about the current system, he says, is that anyone can be in a precarious financial situation through no fault of their own. "The reality is that anyone can become uninsurable," he says. "The great health you might enjoy today can change instantly. Perhaps your next routine checkup will reveal an unknown illness or maybe on your drive to work you get in an automobile accident."
"Today there are hundreds of thousands of people without basic health insurance," Hatch adds. "We must ensure that everyone has affordable access to full health insurance coverage."