Tough call for small business on health care

Cost prevents coverage, state survey shows

By EMILY ANDERSON
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A new survey reports one in four U.S. businesses with five or fewer employees offers health insurance, and 26 million of the 46 million uninsured people in the United States are small business employees, owners or dependents.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Colorado Public Interest Research Group announced survey results from 309 U.S. business owners Tuesday at news conferences in Grand Junction, Colorado
Springs and Denver.

Danny Katz, the director, said the research and advocacy group hopes survey results will spur changes in the health insurance sector, including:

• Tax credits for small businesses that offer coverage;

• Access to state and national insurance pools for small businesses;

• Insurance rate reform; and

•  Reducing the overall cost of health care by rewarding good medical care, cutting
spending, increasing competition and making preventative care a priority.

“They’ve all been proposed at some point, but the legislation is changing every day,” Katz said.

“We want to raise them up and make sure they’re included.”

The study found that 80 percent of small-business owners who do not offer health insurance coverage would like to but can’t afford it. Health insurance premiums for small businesses have gone up 113 percent in the past decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation & Health Research and Educational Trust.

State Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, said at the news conference she wants government to “rein in frivolous lawsuits” against doctors, lower the cost of medical malpractice insurance, and make it less expensive for small businesses to purchase health coverage for their employees.

“Small businesses only have so many places to cut,” said Bradford, who owns ProSafe in Grand Junction. “What’s left is having to choose between offering health care or not, and that contributes to the number of uninsured Americans.”

Bradford said she favors combatting the causes of health problems through legislation.

“Obesity is at a magnitude never seen before in this country. I stand for removal of all vending machines and fast food from our schools today,” Bradford said.

She said she offers insurance to her employees. Two employees used the insurance until recently. Now Bradford alone uses the insurance.

Dr. Michael Pramenko, contacted Tuesday at his office in Grand Junction, said health-care reform is necessary. The most important factor in that reform, he said, is cost containment, particularly when using public funds for health care.

“That doesn’t mean if you don’t have your own money you can’t get it done,” he said of treatment.

Pramenko said money exists for health care and insurance but that it’s not being spent the right way.

“We don’t have enough money to keep doing what we’re doing. We do have money to provide universal care. We’re already doing it with the (emergency room) in a very expensive fashion.

We just want to do it smarter,” he said.


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