Small Businesses Struggle to Offer Healthcare

Some say government should offer helping hand

Among its findings released earlier this year, 62% of those surveyed find it more difficult to offer employees a strong benefits package today compared with a year ago; 52% now offer less medical insurance coverage, and nearly 60% are aggressively seeking ways to reduce insurance costs. Of course, this does not negate findings that small business owners still worry about the costs of benefits for employees (59%).

“This is the same story we hear from businesses all across the country,” says ReShonda Young, operations manager for Alpha Express Inc., a family-owned, 34-employee courier service based in Waterloo, Iowa, and member of the National Advisory Council of the Main Street Alliance, a national network of small business coalitions in 15 states working with small business owners to advocate for healthcare. “Many small businesses are cutting back on coverage, going to policies with higher deductibles or passing more of the costs onto their employees.”

President Barack Obama is adamant about seeing the healthcare reform bill pass by the end of the year. In his administration’s 2010 fiscal budget, Obama plans to reserve $630 billion over the next 10 years towards financing reforms for the healthcare system. This money will allow people to have a choice between health plans and physicians, which they anticipate would lead to more affordable healthcare. The reform will be financed through seven initiatives, such as reducing Medicare overpayments to private insurers through competitive payments.

Young, 34, is on par with the Main Street Alliance’s position that calls on the government to take responsibility.

“In many states, there is no competition in the private insurance market,” she says, adding that small businesses need “real choices” between private and public health insurance plans. “A public option, similar to the plan offered to government employees, is the best option in my opinion. If not, there needs to be government regulation and transparency within the heath insurance industry.”

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