Builder Calls Health Insurance a Big Issue for Small Business
Home builders called on Congress last week to enact association health plan legislation that would put small businesses on an equal footing with large employers and unions in their ability to negotiate lower insurance costs.
Testifying on Jan. 23 before the House Small Business Committee, Scott Eckstein, a self-employed custom home builder and remodeler and newly elected president of the Home Builders Association of Illinois, voiced his concerns about the challenges home builders face in providing dependable, affordable health insurance coverage for their families and employees.
“Access to quality, affordable health care is an important issue to home builders and America’s small businesses,” said Eckstein.
Eckstein expressed his frustration over the current system, citing arbitrary premium increases, unreliable coverage and his carrier’s inability to process referrals when needed. He said that he is paying two insurers more than $22,000 annually to cover his family’s health needs and has seen a spike in his premiums as high as 32% in just one calendar year.
“If new home prices rose at this rate, could you image the cost to shelter our nation, better yet, the consumer uproar our industry would face?” he asked lawmakers.
The House Committee on Small Business heard a number of entrepreneurs discuss the many obstacles preventing them from finding, keeping and administering health care coverage. The stories ranged from a firm being denied eligibility because of a pre-existing condition, to a small business owner having to decide between paying his mortgage and providing health care options to his employees.
“When small business owners are unable to provide health insurance, it affects their own families and those of millions of other Americans. Unfortunately, small firms are often faced with the reality that they can’t continue to operate or must lay off staff in order to offer these benefits,” said Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.).
“Over the years many qualified employees have left my company, and I believe they would have been retained if I was able to offer affordable health insurance,” said Eckstein.
To help small business owners offer affordable health care to their employees and families, Eckstein said that Congress should take the following steps:
- Enact market-based reforms to expand competition and choice in the market to purchase private health insurance
- Provide the ability to create pooling arrangements across state lines
- Offer tax incentives to help with the purchase of health insurance
- Grant federal relief from state health insurance mandates
For more information, e-mail Erin Tario at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8413.
Photo by Herman Farrer