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Small Businesses Hurt by Rising Health Care Costs

Small Businesses Hurt by Rising Health Care Costs



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Jed Boal ReportingMost small business owners struggle to provide health care coverage for their employees. A new survey of small Utah businesses details the problem and suggests a solution.

Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore offers insurance to each of its 40 employees. The store pays half, but soaring health insurance costs rewrite the bottom line.

Tony Weller, Bookstore Owner: "Cost of insurance vastly exceeds our earnings and our ability to pay."

So, Tony Weller must chose between turning a profit and covering his employees.

Tony Weller: "We're rather old-fashioned in that we believe in taking care of our staff and providing insurance for them. But we compete with retailers who do not give insurance to their people."

And those retailers can afford to charge less for books.

A report out today shows Weller is not alone. The Utah Health Policy Project today released the 2006 Small Business Health coverage Survey. The study of 200 businesses shows "small business owners want to attract the best employees and need affordable health coverage options to do so."

91 percent said the cost of health coverage impacts their profitability. 83-percent said they would buy into a public employee plan if it was available.

Judi Hilman, Utah Health Policy Project: "The majority of the uninsured work for small businesses, and we know what's happening right now is squeezing small businesses even tighter."

The advocates hypothetically offered business owners an option to buy into the Public Employee Health Plan, or PEHP, that offers coverage to municipalities and school districts. The legislature would have to pass such a bill, and last year a similar proposal failed.

Weller says he's cautiously optimistic.

Tony Weller: "It's just a matter of time before we embrace these solution, but there will be some folks disappointed along the way."

The Governor's Office of Economic Development has shown interest in solutions to the problem..

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