By Walt Rowen
Owner of Susquehanna Glass Co., Columbia, PA
As a long-time small business owner, I’ve experienced a number of painful rate increases to my group health insurance policy. A few years ago, I was quoted a 130 percent increase just prior to the new Health Care law going into effect. Obviously, I went shopping for new coverage but still faced a 40 percent increase even after we increased our deductible.
But things have been a little bit easier lately. Since the passage of healthcare reform, I’ve already seen savings that I’ve been able to reinvest in my business. In 2010 we got our first break with an increase of only 10 percent, which seemed like a real deal. Although we continued to use increasing deductibles to offset some of the increase, the annual rate increases were manageable. Last year while shopping for a new policy, my carrier informed me that under the Affordable Care Act’s Medical Loss Ratio requirement, insurance companies are now required to spend at least 80 percent of small groups’ premium dollars on patient care. My insurer had hit the limit, meaning my costs were going up less than usual. If we kept our policy the same we were facing a 7 percent increase, but once again we opted to increase our deductible and then realized only a 4 percent increase. This was by far the lowest health insurance increase we’d experienced in 10 years.
I’m very thankful for this provision in the new healthcare law. And as a small business owner who has dealt firsthand with daunting premium rate hikes for years, I look forward to 2014 when even more of the law’s provisions take effect—many of them are designed specifically to help small businesses like mine.
For one thing, we’ll get new protections from the ban on preexisting condition exclusions and will allow many of my employees to keep their older children on their family policy longer. We’ll also have the option to purchase insurance through the new health insurance exchanges. These online marketplaces will give small groups a broader set of plans to choose from and a place to pool their buying power.
I saw a national survey from Small Business Majority that found one-third of small business owners who don’t currently offer coverage are more likely to start doing so because of these exchanges. Small business owners want to offer coverage, and the exchanges are going to make that easier—and even more parts of the law are already doing that, like the one that helped me save money.
Last year marked the first time my business’s insurance rates actually went up less than expected, and I don’t think I’m the only one. That’s why I support the Affordable Care Act.