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Sep 1, 2009 7:34 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Small businesses react to health care reform legislation

Sep 1, 2009 7:34 PM

As the debate over health care reform continues to engulf the nation, Richard Kresberg and Debra Marino felt compelled to add their voices to the mix.

Ms. Marino and Mr. Kresberg, who are married and own Provisions Natural Foods Market in Sag Harbor, were outside their business on Thursday, August 27, distributing health reform “myth buster” fliers and collecting petition signatures for Organizing for America, President Barack Obama’s campaign organization.

The couple, like many small-business owners in Sag Harbor, on the East End and across the nation, say the rising cost for providing health insurance to their employees is a growing burden. It’s placing a strain on their ability to do business, they said.

Mr. Kresberg, who supports the public health insurance option proposed by Mr. Obama to add competition to the insurance market in hopes of controlling costs, said his annual premium payments doubled over the last eight years to $40,000. He provides health insurance coverage under Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield to five full-time employees.

“This is representative of what we’re dealing with in the health care system,” Mr. Kresberg said. “Costs have shot up dramatically, and the quality of care has gone down.”

Other small-business owners in Sag Harbor echoed Mr. Kresberg’s concern over health care costs. Some said they expected their premium payments to insurers would see double-digit increases this year.

Emporium Hardware owner Frank D’Angelo said he shares 55 percent of premium costs with his 10 full-time employees for Oxford health insurance but is considering lowering his contribution if Oxford raises its rates. Mr. D’Angelo, who spends about $30,000 on health care for his business, said he expects Oxford will request at least a 10-percent increase in premium payments when his contract goes up for renewal in November.

“It’s too much” Mr. D’Angelo said. “I might scale back 5 percent every year, to keep the amount we pay out every year fixed, because business isn’t increasing, business is pretty much flat here.”

Still, Mr. D’Angelo said health care reforms should include a mandate for all employers to offer health insurance to their employees to “level the playing field” between competing small businesses.

“Too many small businesses don’t offer [health insurance]—too many companies I’m competing with don’t offer it,” Mr. D’Angelo said. “We have to level the playing field.”

Barry Marcus, the owner of the Sag Harbor Pharmacy, offers health care for his two full-time employees under Aetna, said he would like to offer coverage to his part-time employees, but is unable to do so because of the cost. “It’s too high,” he said. “Maybe President Obama will fix that.”

Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce Vice President Alan Fruitstone, who owns Harbor Pets, said health care is a hardship for many in the area. He said health insurance for many self-employed people is often too expensive to afford.

“Health care is a problem for everyone out here,” Mr. Fruitstone said. “There are so many people who don’t have it, not just for their employees but for themselves.”

Still, Henry Persan & Sons Hardware owner Bob Persan, who provides his four full-time employees health care through the Health Insurance Plan of New York [HIP], said he is happy with the health care system now. Mr. Persan, who is skeptical of current reform proposals in Congress, pays about $35,000 a year for health coverage.

“It is very expensive,” Mr. Persan said. “But I still think it is better than what is in these proposals. I still think they have a lot to talk about.”

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While insurance premiums have, indeed, dramatically increased over the last several years, introducing a public health insurance option is not the solution. This proposition will not aid small businesses; on the contrary, this “option” will hurt small businesses by decreasing competition and giving more power to the government. What would help small businesses would be to allow them the same tax breaks as large businesses are allowed, and encourage those businesses to provide policies through private-not ...more
By TerryNeese (1), Dallas on Sep 2, 09 5:36 PM
Pay attention folks, TerryNeeses from Dallas works for the NPCA and guess what, The NCPA is one of the well-funded right-wing think tanks that uses its sizable corporate funding base to influence public opinion through hard-news coverage, television, talk shows, Op-Ed's and guest editorials in major newspapers, and Congressional connections. Ms. Neese trolls the internet looking for blogs and discussions about health care and then joins the conversation on behalf of the corporations that fund her ...more
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Sep 2, 09 6:39 PM
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