Countdown to Reform? Small Business Owners Continue to Struggle with Employee Health Benefits as the Healthcare Bill Hangs in the Balance

By Hutson, Brittany | Black Enterprise, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Countdown to Reform? Small Business Owners Continue to Struggle with Employee Health Benefits as the Healthcare Bill Hangs in the Balance


Hutson, Brittany, Black Enterprise


WHILE THE RUSH CONTINUES FOR Congress to deliver a cohesive healthcare reform bill, small business owners continue to struggle with limited insurance options and high costs.

For such owners, the goals for any reform remain consistent: affordable insurance and equal competition in the marketplace (see "Insurance Lapse," September 2009). ReShonda Young, operations manager for Alpha Express Inc., a 34-employee courier service based in Waterloo, Iowa, agrees, but with conditions. "It's hoping for greater regulations of the insurance industry, cutting out the pre-existing condition exclusions and transparency," says Young, who runs the business with her brother Raymond Robinson and their father, Levorn. "We want to see what we are paying for and why."

This past year, Alpha Express generated revenues of $1.7 million. Young says it was also the first time in nearly nine years that the company could afford to offer coverage, which it does through Assurance Health Care. The cost to insure employees reached $7,000 monthly; Alpha Express and its staff split the cost of monthly premiums 75/25.

Currently, just 38% of small businesses offer employee insurance, down from 67% in 1995, according to the National Small Business Association.

"Small business owners are being forced to make some pretty impossible decisions," says Sam Blair, national director for the Main Street Alliance (www. mainstreetalliance.org), an organization that works with small businesses to advocate for healthcare. "They are being forced to cut back on coverage, put more of the cost on their employees, and increase deductibles." Even after scaling back, owners still face a 10% to 20% increase in premiums, notes Blair. "This only makes it harder for small business to do its part for economic recovery--create jobs and stimulate the economy."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Under the proposed reform, small business owners will receive a two-year tax credit to help cover costs. …

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