Maryland Legislators and Insurance Companies Seek Solutions to Lower Costs
According to the National Small Business Association 30 % of small businesses nationwide can no longer afford to provide their employees with any kind of health insurance. Small businesses in Maryland just outside the nation’s capital, are no exceptions. In fact in this area small businesses find affordable health insurance to be a greater problem than in most.
Many Maryland small business owners have been forced to choose higher deductibles to lower health insurance costs. Others have limited benefits, and still others have had to cut health insurance benefits all together. Small business owners in Maryland say they have been hit with health insurance cost increases over 23% in the last year. One owner says he now looks for employees who are covered by their spouse’s healthcare insurance plan when hiring.
On a local level legislators are trying to do something to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses in the state. Delegate Ron George, a republican from Arnold, proposes working with health insurance companies. Under his plan he wants to form a health insurance exchange, were health insurance companies will provide a variety of affordable health insurance products, tailor made to the needs of specific small businesses. He feels that part of the problem has been that businesses with less than 10 employees had to buy into a “one size fits all ” approach to health plans, lumped in with small businesses that had up to 50 employees.
Choice and a free market for health insurance always held a greater allure to small businesses than the recent flurry of calls for mandated, and “single payer” type universal healthcare insurance being made across the nation. Another Maryland representative has passed legislation that allows small businesses to offer short-term health insurance policies for seasonal workers. Prior to that they had no such option. If a small business wanted to cover seasonal or temporary workers they had to purchase a full blown health plan, just as if they were full time employees. These are the kinds of choices and options for lower cost health insurance programs that appeal to small business owners.
The president of the Annapolis and Arundle County Chambers of Commerce agrees with the market approach to reducing health insurance costs. He is pushing for initiatives that increase small group health insurance deductibles and lower costs while providing for more consumer choice as part of the next session’s legislative agenda. He opposes a national healthcare insurance system that puts all the burden of cost on the federal government.