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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Shirts101 | Lincoln, NB
Nebraska screen printing company:
Rising health insurance bills inhibit growth
Shirt maker forgoes new hiring and equipment because of healthcare costs
Rick Poore's business is all about making an impression with a few words-he has a custom screen print and embroidery company that produces personalized shirts for customers around the country. So he knows how to turn a phrase for maximum impact.
Poore's comment on health insurance companies: "The insurance industry is like potato chip makers: They both charge more every year but put less in the bag."
But Poore is deadly serious about the need for reform and the impact rising health insurance costs are having on small businesses like his. He employs 28 people but could hire more employees and buy better equipment if he didn't have to keep spending more money on health insurance premiums. "The cost of coverage is draining away funds I could use to expand my business," Rick says. He figures that the extra 18% to 25% that small businesses pay for insurance translates to $12,000 a year for his business-"That's a lease on a new press," he says.
"The cost of coverage is draining away funds I could use to expand my business."
Speaks for small business owners at the White House
Poore's company started out small, with just a handful of employees. He's provided insurance coverage from the beginning. But the health plan has eroded over the past 15 years as the company has grown and health costs have gone up. Poore has increased deductibles, out-of-pocket limits and copays, and still spends $60,000 a year on premiums.
His arguments for reform gained national prominence in November when he was the featured small business speaker at a White House event focusing on the economic impact of healthcare costs on small businesses. Sharing the dais with top administration officials, Poore spoke for fellow small business owners from around the country: "The system is broken as far as small business is concerned. The status quo is not an option."
"If they do reform right it will be like a stimulus check to every small business."
Reform needed to stimulate the economy
Poore believes lawmakers need to understand how dire the economic situation is for small business owners, and how a reformed insurance market would help companies like his invest in their businesses again.
Poore feels that covering the uninsured is a moral imperative, but he's also willing to put the argument in economic terms. "Listen, here's the money we're wasting" on an inefficient healthcare system, he says. "That is economic suicide. If they do reform right it will be a like a stimulus check to every small business. And employees will have more money in their pockets."
Small business has a crucial role to play, he argues, but needs a fairer insurance marketplace to get there. "We have heard enough of the lip service politicians give us about small business being the backbone of the economy. It is time to put up. If you do, then hitch us up and we'll pull us out of this recession."