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Small business imperiled by health care costs
by Melinda Williams
Jul 09, 2009 | 1458 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BOUNTIFUL — Tom Hori is “hopeful” Congress can come up with a health care plan which will allow small business owners like him the ability to continue to provide insurance to employees despite rising health care costs.

Hori is owner of Redcon Inc., a Bountiful business specializing in land surveying and global information systems, as well as technical support for computers.

He currently has 15 employees, and is still able to provide health insurance, although he said a large claim among those on his company’s insurance causes the already “unbelievably high” premiums to increase even more. To compensate, he’s had to increase insurance deductibles, but he doesn’t know how much longer he can continue that cycle.

Small business owners like Hori were part of a telephone survey conducted by Lake Research Partners last month, which showed “Utah’s small businesses are struggling to afford health care coverage,” said John Pitt, president and CEO of the Davis Chamber of Commerce. “Our small business owners want and need a federal-state partnership around bi-partisan health reforms this year.”

Pitt, along with other Chamber of Commerce presidents, small business owners, members of the Small Business Majority and the Utah Business Group held a press conference in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, where results of the survey were announced, and business owners shared their struggles.

Hori said he’s neither optimistic, nor pessimistic that a health care reform package can be put together this year, but he remains hopeful.

He said such a package will be difficult to achieve because “there’s so many parts of health care reform which have to come together.”

He believes Democrats and Republicans will have to strike a compromise on any plan, “There’s so many different versions (of a health care bill) out there now, if the Senate passes the (House) bill, it will have to go to a compromise committee which could delay the process. That’s why it’s hard for me to remain optimistic.”

Like Hori, other survey respondents overwhelmingly indicate that affordability is the most significant barrier to providing health insurance.

Most small business owners would like to provide coverage, but those that can afford to do so increasingly feel undermined by rising costs, said Judi Hilman, with the Utah Business Group on Health. Many doubt they will be able to provide coverage much longer.

Yet, she said, most view the lack of access to affordable health insurance as a significant barrier to entrepreneurship. The majority see reform as necessary and important to getting the economy back on track.

Hori, like many Utahns, doesn’t want a federally-run health insurance program, yet he said he’d be in favor of a plan which will provide some type of federally-funded health insurance for those without insurance, while allowing the public sector insurance providers to continue offering insurance plans through businesses. “That kind of a plan makes sense to me and can bring reduced costs by compromising,” he said.

Among the survey findings:

• 79 percent of businesses paying for some or all of their employees health insurance agree that their business is really struggling to afford the cost of health coverage;

• 74 percent agree that more people would become entrepreneurs and start businesses if they knew that they could get health insurance despite their pre-existing health conditions;

• 80 percent support the proposal to establish a health insurance pool to create a marketplace where small businesses and individuals can choose their coverage.

A full copy of the report is available at the Small Business Majority’s website at

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