Health-care flexibility

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

By Kathy Swan

Owning a small business has great rewards: providing a needed product or service at a fair price, growing the company by building a solid base of customers, giving a chance for employees to earn a good salary that supports their families and contributing to the community.

Starting and running a business also presents many challenges. It has become increasingly difficult to take on the role of health-insurance expert.

There are three obstacles to this role: time, expertise, and money. There are not enough hours in the day or the expertise to tackle the decisions that go into selecting a plan that meets the needs of all employees. In addition, revenue seldom increases at the rate of escalating insurance costs.

To cope with the increasing costs that are out of our control, both our employees and our company pay more each year for less coverage. It's impossible for a small-business owner to budget for unpredictable costs.

State Rep. Doug Ervin has introduced a bill in the Missouri Legislature that would give employees more flexibility to choose their own plan while offering business owners more latitude to control our health-care costs.

House Bill 818 would allow us to designate a specific dollar amount for each of our employees to purchase the type of plan that best fits their family's needs. By using this cafeteria plan, all of us would enjoy the same tax advantages as those of a larger company, plus our employees would be able to take their insurance with them if they changed jobs.

As a small-business owner, I encourage the legislature to pass HB 818 and send it to the governor for his signature. This legislation has the support of Missouri independent insurance agents as well as the National Federation of Independent Business. Many thanks to Representative Ervin for taking this important step to ensure that health insurance will be made more affordable and accessible.

Kathy Swan is the president of JCS/TEL-LINK in Cape Girardeau and chair of the leadership council of the National Federation of Independent Business in Missouri.

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