Janet Hildreth, small business owner – Tree Lovers Flooring

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We’ve always offered health insurance in our small business, Tree Lovers Flooring, to provide for our employees as we would for ourselves. It was the right thing to do. But it’s getting almost impossible to keep doing. The total cost this year, even after changing to a plan with higher copays, is about $51,000 for 12 of us. A few families are included, but mostly it’s for individuals in their 30s or early 40s.

We were on HealthNet until a couple of years ago, when it shot up 20%. We switched to Blue Shield, and last year it went up 11%. Then Blue Shield canceled the plan we originally bought. I had to put in endless hours understanding a new Blue Shield plan, trying to figure out the premium vs. the copays and deductibles, what’s covered and what’s not. I can barely understand the terms in the fine print myself, much less explain them to our employees.

Every claim under the new policy seems to bring a surprise, especially the number of prescription drugs that are not covered at all. On top of that we have deductibles of $500 per person, and a 30% copay for outpatient services.

My employees keep asking me about medical bills they didn’t formerly have to pay—and on salaries of  $30,000 to $40,000 to support a family, that they can’t really afford to pay.

From what I can see, the value-to-cost equation for our health insurance just keeps getting worse. As the plan gets more expensive for employees, more of them are tempted to drop it. But if we have less than 75% participation by eligible employees, we can’t even get a plan.

For the first time ever I’m wondering if we should just go to catastrophic insurance and pay people more to cover their own routine care. That’s taking a big risk, and the guys who work with us really don’t have the money to pay out of pocket on high deductible Health Savings Account plan.

On the other hand, we can’t keep going in the current direction.

We need help, and soon, starting with a harder look at the rates insurance companies charge small business.  I don’t understand why health insurance rates aren’t already regulated, since other states do it. If the state wants to encourage small businesses, letting them get run over by health insurance companies isn’t the way to do it.

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