Small businesses need better value - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Small businesses need better value

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Posted: Saturday, March 14, 2009 6:09 pm | Updated: 1:24 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Heather Frazier: As a small business owner, I know all too well how broken our health care system is. Each year, I pay exorbitant out-of-pocket premiums for health insurance. Last year alone, my premiums exceeded $5,000 for one person.

As a small business owner, I know all too well how broken our health care system is. Each year, I pay exorbitant out-of-pocket premiums for health insurance. Last year alone, my premiums exceeded $5,000 for one person.

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This would not upset me were I to have decent coverage. But my policy does not offer a co-pay for doctor visits, has no prescription coverage, and of course, has no maternity benefits should I choose to have a child. The policy is only beneficial if I have a catastrophic medical event.

When I do need to utilize the policy for a treatment — and I have on a few occasions — they argue and tell me the procedure is not covered. In two cases, this argument occurred after they had already paid for the procedure the first time! And, due to a pre-existing condition, I am unable to get another policy from another company without paying even more.

My health care coverage is so poor that, on top of the $5,000 premiums, I also pay for every doctor visit out of my pocket.

Prescriptions come full price out of my pocket. This creates a serious financial strain on me and my business. There are times I have not filled prescriptions because I could not afford them.

It seems as though this policy, like most, is not a health care policy, but a sick care policy. If I am catastrophically ill, I am covered (I hope), but in order to maintain health, my policy will not help me unless I pay more for riders that allow doctor visits.

I know I am not the only one who is experiencing this dilemma.

A SMALL BUSINESS EMERGENCY

The crisis in health care is personal for me, but I am not alone. Small businesses across Arizona, as well as the country, are being crushed by the ever-increasing cost of health insurance for our hard-working employees and families. The cost of insurance has doubled in the last five years.

But, unfortunately, the coverage and quality has certainly not doubled with it. We know our rates will continue to skyrocket if we do nothing. Little wonder half of small businesses have been pushed out of the market and can no longer afford health insurance.

The health care problem for small businesses is a big problem for our entire economy. Seventy-five percent of the new jobs in our country are generated every year by small businesses. Our economy counts on thousands of new businesses being formed annually to expand and drive innovation.

During the presidential election, every major candidate presented a plan to fix our broken health care system. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama said, “In other words, the question isn’t how we can afford to focus on health care — but how we can afford not to. Because in order to fix our economic crisis, we need to fix our health care system too.”

Obama says health care reform is a top priority for 2009.

Americans gave a mandate in the last election that we want things to change in our nation’s Capitol and we want our health care system fixed. It will be up to Congress to find ways to support the president’s vision by committing to quality health care that is affordable to all of us — small business, our employees and the communities we serve.

SHARING THE COSTS

To get there, we must look at health care as a shared responsibility between government, business and employees. I am willing to pay my share for good health care, as long as there is good coverage and it is of quality.

Most companies already pay more than 10 percent of their payroll, and that is for inadequate coverage. It is not a question of willingness to pay; it is a question of value. Give us a solid plan with high quality coverage at an affordable price — give us a good value — and we will be more than happy to pitch in.

I am, however, not confident that we can rely solely on the insurance industry to deliver on the promise of quality, affordable health care. Small businesses live and die based on service and value. The insurance industry relies on providing the least amount of service and value to its customers for the highest price. More profit is made because they charge high premiums and offer little coverage. I believe we must have a choice of private insurance or a strong public health insurance plan so we are not just one large captive audience to the private insurance companies.

As a small business owner, I am looking to my Arizona representatives to hear my concerns and stand up for everyone in Arizona and America regarding health care. I am looking for real health care reform. I believe that should include the option of a high quality public health insurance plan. I believe it should also include insurance industry regulation to put people and their health before profits. I am willing to make it happen.

Heather Frazier is owner of A Magickal Moon in Tempe, an alternative spiritual retail store.

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