WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 Democratic Senators Tom Harkin and Mary Landrieu and Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson joined Mike Draper, a small business owner from Des Moines, Iowa; Gwendolyn Barnes, a small business owner from Shreveport, Louisiana; Dr. Ken Brantley, a small business owner from Richmond, Virginia; and other small business owners from across the country at a press conference this morning 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 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 preexisting 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."
Landrieu said: "Small businesses are suffering from skyrocketing health insurance premiums that are eating into their bottom lines and threatening their survival. 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 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."
Draper said: "We try to be flexible, but it's an expensive way to do it. 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."
Brantley said: "The lack of affordable health insurance hurts millions of small-business owners like me. 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."
SOURCE U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship