Sanford Area Small Business Owners Talk Health Care | Business
Local members of the Maine Small Business Coalition gathered at a table at the Fusion Bistro (formerly the French Connection coffee shop and cafe) in Springvale today to discuss the effect of rising health care costs on Sanford-area businesses and what the upcoming election means for affordable care.
According to the business owners, rising health care costs are one of the biggest threats to the bottom lines of small businesses and one of the main drags on the economy.
Sharon Peralta, who owns Custom Computer Services & More in Sanford, can't afford health care coverage at all and she faults the new insurance industry deregulation law passed during the last legislative session for hiking rates and making coverage even less affordable.
"Anthem's M.O. is to make money," said Peralta. "They're not motivated by providing care and they don't care about the cost to small businesses."
More than 1,200 members of the Maine Small Business Coalition signed petitions, wrote letters and lobbied in Augusta against Public Law 90, now known as the rate hike bill, which was backed by Anthem and other insurance companies. Since the passage of the law, 90 percent of small businesses have seen their rates increase. Some businesses, particularly those with older employees or in rural areas have seen their premiums more than double.
Current District 3 Senator and Congressional candidate Jon Courtney voted in favor of the bill. Representative John Tuttle of Sanford, who is running for Courtney's open seat, voted against it and has said he will work to repeal the legislation if elected.
For David Mongeau, the high cost of health care means that his employees at Fusion Bistro go without coverage.
"My employees are the backbone of my business," said Mongeau. "Unfortunately, the cost of health insurance for them meant choosing between paying for heat or paying for health insurance."
Matt Westerlund, who is a self-employed insurance salesman, says he's been hearing from clients across the state who have experienced rate increases for their health coverage. "This rate hike law may help the insurance companies, and it might even help my business for a little while, but I still don't think it's right." said Westerlund.