Even as the broader economy puts a strain on the profits of small businesses, health care costs continue to go up, with the inevitable result that more and more small business workers simply don't get coverage. Read a new, meticulously documented report from HHS, "Helping the Bottom Line: Health Reform and Small Business."
Also, at 11:00 this morning Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, will meet with small business owners and representatives as part of the Administration’s continuing series of White House Health Care Stakeholder Discussions. Listen to their experiences first hand:
Watch the live-stream of the discussion.
UPDATE: A recap of the meeting from Rebecca Adelman of HHS, who was there:
Today, as the Department of Health and Human Services released a report detailing how small businesses are struggling to keep up with rising health care costs, White House office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle went straight to the source. She hosted a group of over 20 representatives from small businesses across the country, who affirmed the findings in the HHS report – small business are uniquely feeling the impact of skyrocketing health care costs. In fact, nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with fewer than 100 workers. As a result, an increasing number of small business owners are unable to offer coverage to their employees.
Jody Hall, owner of "Verité Coffee and Cupcake Royale" in Seattle, Washington, opened the meeting with a story familiar to all the small business owners gathered at the White House. Each year, she said, it is becoming more difficult to offer viable insurance plans to her employees. She said her health insurance premiums went up 40 percent last year, "and that’s just for a basic plan that, in all honesty, doesn’t provide real security." Before opening a small business, Hall spent years working at a large corporation that provided affordable insurance to even part-time employees. There, she learned that offering health insurance is the right thing to do, and it also helps a business attract and maintain a talented pool of employees. This year she had to raise the price of cupcakes in her store and offer her employees a less attractive health care plan to compensate for the escalating insurance costs.
Many of the small business owners expressed concern that health care costs were making it more difficult for them to grow and take new risks. Jane Huelle, who owns a specialty pet-supply and dog training store called "The Dog Spot" in Washington DC, has five employees. She said, "I could really use another person, but I can’t hire anyone else because I’m already paying a salary in health insurance." Other attendees spoke of having to make painful cutbacks. Chris and Becky Link, owners of "Imagination Branding", had to reduce their staff by a third on account of increasing health care costs and the economic recession. "We are like a family, it was hard to do," they said.
Director of the White House's National Economic Council
Larry Summers also took part in the discussion. He stressed that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy: "There’s never been a big business which didn’t start as a small business." He noted that providing health care coverage for employees is especially costly for small businesses, and "as a country, we can do much, much better than we are." Health care reform, he said, is both a moral issue for our children and a deeply practical issue – and this year, we have a good chance to make this right
(HHS Photo/ Chris Smith)