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Survey: Employee health care hurting small businesses

Posted July 21, 2009
Updated July 22, 2009

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— Nice Price Books in Carrboro prides itself on selling used books at a discounted price, but owner Cindy Kamoroff says when it comes to health insurance for her staff, she hasn't found any bargains.

"My health insurance for three healthy people is more than my mortgage," Kamoroff said Tuesday.

Because of that, Kamoroff said she is not hiring any more full-time workers and cannot offer benefits to part-time employees.

"It strangles my son's college savings. It strangles any improvements to my home," Kamoroff said. "We can't travel. We can't expand our business in any way, because we can't afford it."

Kamoroff isn't alone, according to the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit, public interest advocacy organization.

In North Carolina, 20 percent of companies with 10 employees or fewer offer health insurance; 77 percent of businesses in the state are small businesses.

In a recent survey of 343 small-business owners and managers, the group found that the costs and administrative hassles associated with offering insurance weigh heavily on small businesses.

It found that 55 percent of small businesses value health insurance as a key to business success because it allows them to attract skilled workers. Seventy-eight percent who are not offering coverage would like to do so.

"A public health insurance option that competes with private companies and could potentially decrease the cost that these insurance companies are charging individuals and small businesses – we think could be a very good change," said Aubrey Hamilton, a staff member for North Carolina Public Interest Research Group’s health care campaign.

The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce says its approximately 35,000 members largely disagree, saying a government option, like the one proposed by President Barack Obama, could actually cost more.

"Among the big funders of a government-run plan would be a high tax on high-wage earners," said Lew Ebert, the chamber's president and chief executive officer. "Many times, people forget those are small-business owners."

Ebert said that could ultimately mean fewer jobs and that right now, there are too many questions to rush into a decision.

"The government-run plan brings uncertainty to all aspects of the market," he said.

Obama has insisted that legislation reinventing the nation's $2.4 trillion health care system be in place before Congress recesses in August, but the plan has drawn sharp criticism from Republicans and some Democrats that it is too expensive.

The bill before the U.S. House of Representatives would, for the first time, require all individuals to have health insurance and all employers to provide it.

Under the proposal, the poor would get subsidies to buy insurance and insurers would be barred from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. The bill also would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, the top 1.2 percent of earners.

The president is scheduled to address the nation on the matter Wednesday at 8 p.m. Watch the address live on WRAL.com or on WRAL-TV.

17 Comments

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  • mrbigt032j Jul 22, 2009

    I have been in the restaurant bussines for over 20 yrs i have 6 employees. bussines is slow i am barley haging on if i have to furnish ins . i will have to close my doors and thes 6 employees will not have a job or insurance. how many other people are going to loose ther job .do you want a job with no ins or no job and no ins

  • prn13norm Jul 22, 2009

    Let's fund Obama's Health Care program by abolishing welfare, food stamps, subsidized housing and taxing illegal aliens.

  • miketroll3572 Jul 22, 2009

    If bad odors policy goes thru, it will bankrupt America and you all can kiss this nation good bye.

  • itsnews2me Jul 22, 2009

    The time for acquiring health care coverage through your employer on a pre-tax earnings basis has passed. Does your current employer sponsor and contribute towards your purchase of auto insurance or your mortgage? Why does health insurance continue to be seen as an employer responsibility? The best thing the government could do would be to disallow the purchase of health insurance through your employer on a pre-tax basis for all businesses and drive the competition to the final consumer or "buyer's groups" on an after-tax pricing basis based on services offered (like auto insurance). This puts the competition directly on the insurance companies without the buffering of employer and government subsidies. The government should then concentrate solely on Medicare to continue to provide a "pool" from which the elderly and chronically ill could obtain coverage (like state high-risk driver pools for auto insurance) and fund it accordingly and manage associated costs appropriately.

  • raleighdbp Jul 22, 2009

    landshark-"Real Small Business, less than 4 employees, owners making far less than 250,000 a year, want and need help."

    According to hoovers Nice Price Books is headquartered in Durham with two additional locations and annual sales last year of $300,000, thus putting that small company with what it says is five employees in jeopardy of higher taxes under current proposals.

  • concerncitizen Jul 22, 2009

    Republicans and some Democrats that it is too expensive". I tell you what I know for sure! No health insurance coverage is deadly!!!!!!! They have health coverage, they can afford for us to wait.

    I have an idea to speed the process along. No Republicans or Democrats or their family members have health insurance coverage any longer until all Americans have affordable health insurance?

    Another idea of mind. I wish people would stop crying about all the bad that might happen. The ideas put forth by Mr. Obama are not constitutional amendments! They can be change if they aren't working!

  • concerncitizen Jul 22, 2009

    The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce says its approximately 35,000 members largely disagree, saying a government option, like the one proposed by President Barack Obama, could actually cost more.

    "Among the big funders of a government-run plan would be a high tax on high-wage earners," said Lew Ebert, the chamber's president and chief executive officer. "Many times, people forget those are small-business owners."

    This is big talk, to knock the plan of Mr. Obama. Where is the backup documentation? Mr. Ebert's business is less than 4 people like the Book Store? No! These folks have an agenda. Real Small Business, less than 4 employees, owners making far less than 250,000 a year, want and need help. Most of this talk is just getting in the way of that happening, I think! We've heard all the talk about how bad "a government-run plan brings uncertainty to all aspects of the market". Well I am scare of the government also. We need help now! I am sick of seeing "criticism from

  • raleighdbp Jul 22, 2009

    Note the article originally posted last night called the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group a "Nonpartisan" group. Amazingly after an email last night that wording was removed.

    From the front page of the above mentioned "nonpartisan" groups webpage:

    "We need to seize the opportunity for real changes that can make health care more affordable, secure and dependable for us all by passing President Obama’s health care plan"

    I guess even our local media cant hide there agenda. I suppose this post will be removed but I thought it should be pointed out.

  • rand321 Jul 22, 2009

    I have a small business and provide insurance. Its not cheap by any means. I would like for it to be less. however, the health care costs are high. BCBS pays out 85% of the premiums to health providers and after the admin costs, nets 3.6%.

    As much as I hate it for the Nice Price Book owner, i really doubt the public plan premiums would be cheaper if at all than the BCBS ones.

    The real issues is what contributes to the costs of health care, from the byszantine strucutre of Certificate of Needs, allowable direct and indirect medicare, medicaid, etc.

    Reform Medicare to get costs under control for alll of us.

  • no contest Jul 22, 2009

    “WXYZ” A great post. If the government really and truly wanted to help people and small business they would allow much greater deductions for us. North Carolina politicians are now going to pass a 1 billion dollar tax hike. Our tax and spend crowd in Raleigh is going to add another huge burden on us just as the Obama people try to force more unread and unknown legislation on the people. What are the Dems going to do when there is no more money to extract from us? What happens when the rich are no longer rich? What happens when there is no more freedom? Who or what country will take us over?

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