By Derek King
I am the owner of a small business, and I am frustrated by private health care insurance.
Everyone knows that without insurance, any health care crisis can become a financial crisis. What most people don’t know is that insurance may not protect you. Worse, they don’t understand how it harms small businesses.
On a personal level, severe throat problems forced me to go to the emergency room twice in six months while I was on my mother's health insurance seven years ago. The first time, a surgeon drained a painful cyst. Then, to stop recurrence, another removed my tonsils. Despite being insured, it took me four and a half years to pay those bills.
On a professional level, when my consulting firm began hiring employees, I wanted everyone in our company to have good insurance coverage. It’s the ethical thing to do. It’s also practical: It reduces our competitive disadvantage against bigger companies.
But it drives me crazy. At the end of every year, I spend weeks poring over plans and talking with a broker. Every year, insurance companies change their terms, altering copays, raising deductibles, shifting what’s covered. After I’ve determined a short list, I go through each policy with my employees, explaining who is eligible, what’s covered and what's not. Once we pick the plans, many more steps remain, setting everything up through payroll and the insurance company. Then, during the year, employees need help tapping into their benefits.
Every. Year. Dozens and dozens of hours wasted that my partners, myself and my employees could spend working for our clients.
The New York Health Act, a single-payer plan that would have the state purchase comprehensive health insurance for all residents, would help my small business in countless ways. Most critical, by liberating us from worrying about our employees leaving for bigger companies after we've trained them. It will also save us countless hours and headaches throughout the year — we can focus all those now-wasted hours on revenue-producing projects, rather than reading and talking about insurance policies and administering health care benefits.
Finally, covering everyone will cost less than covering just four employees now. All of us will have far better benefits — better than any big company now offers — with no premiums, co-pays, deductibles or networks.
Don’t tell me the act is too costly. Even if it did cost more, it would be worth it. In my business, time is money. I want to focus on the work that made me and my partners want to run a business in the first place – work that still excites me. Ensuring all my workers have health care matters, but I’m tired of navigating the expensive and ever-changing private health insurance market. It wastes my time, drains my spirit and just plain aggravates me all year long. For this alone, it’s worth every dollar.
Derek King is a co-owner and director of operations at Preservation Studios in Buffalo.