Bennet: Skyrocketing Health Care Costs Are Crippling Colorado Small Businesses' Ability to Grow, Compete and Create Jobs

Meets With Greeley Small Business Owner to Discuss Need for Reform that Reduces Costs, Increases Competition

In HELP Committee Hearing, Bennet Hears Stories of How Rising Health Care Costs are Taking Toll on America's Small Businesses

With Colorado small businesses finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with skyrocketing costs for health care coverage, Michael Bennet today kept up the fight for reform that relieves small employers from the burden of rising health care costs that affect their ability to grow, compete and create new jobs.

Bennet renewed his call for reform during a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, where he heard about the high toll health care costs take on small businesses and how those costs affect their ability to compete.

For audio from that hearing, please click here.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Lockton Benefit Group, one of the nation's largest health insurance brokers, Colorado business owners say the cost of offering health insurance to employees has climbed 11.8 percent compared with a year ago.

Moreover, Colorado's small business owners and self-employed spent $2.4 billion in healthcare premiums in 2008, and according to MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber, that number will rise to $5.8 billion by 2018 without relief from comprehensive reform.

"Across Colorado, small businesses are paying 18 percent more for health care coverage than large employers, but they aren't getting 18 percent better care," said Bennet. "When our small businesses shoulder this kind of burden, our economy suffers - we all suffer. We need to fix the system, bring down costs and allow small business to grow, create new jobs and help our economy recover."

Prior to the HELP Committee hearing, Bennet met with a group of Colorado small business owners including Kath Vaughn, owner and operator of Jinks Rocks in Greeley, who said rising health care costs are making it harder to cover his employees and compete in these difficult economic times.

"We became small business owners to open doors and now because of the health insurance industry we feel far more doors closing than opening," said Vaughn. "We need our representatives to do the right thing and bring down the real cost of health care to mine and all other small businesses."

In Colorado, small businesses represent 96 percent of the state's employers and 38 percent of its private-sector employment. Small businesses created 99.7 percent of Colorado's net new jobs from 2004 to 2005, and of the uninsured adults in Colorado, 71 percent are employed, and 43 percent of firms with fewer than 50 employees offer their employees health insurance.

Health care reform would help small businesses by:

  • Establishing a health insurance exchange to create a marketplace that is fair, efficient, transparent and predictable
  • Bringing an end to denials based on pre-existing conditions
  • Providing tax credits and individual subsidies that would help businesses afford coverage for their employees
  • Ensuring long-term cost containment would reduce rates by eliminating waste and inefficiency