KYW Regional Affairs Council

“The Small Business

Healthcare Headache”


By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Health care has been an especially hot topic this year, as the US Supreme Court deliberates on whether President Obama’s health care law will survive.

But in the meantime, many small business owners are barely treading water in the struggle to provide coverage.

“A lot of people see someone with a business and think they are rolling,” notes Rod Millwood, who owns the Laff House, a comedy club at 3rd and South Streets in Philadelphia.  “But no.”

His popular bar employs about 15 people and doesn’t offer health insurance to employees.  In fact, Millwood says, he’s had to sacrifice his own family’s health insurance just to keep the club’s doors open.

“Employees come first — they got to get theirs,” he tells KYW Newsradio.  “(Then) the taxes got to be paid, the rent got to be paid, the utilities got to be paid.  And then what’s left over is yours.  Sometimes you have nothing.”

Unfortunately, Millwood’s decision to forego healthcare led to an even bigger sacrifice: his wife Mona passed away just a few months ago.

“We found out she had stage one ovarian cancer. When she died, a part of me died as well.”

But Millwood’s situation is by no means unique.  Only about half of Pennsylvania businesses that employ fewer than 50 employees pay for employee health insurance.  Of those, 72 percent say they’re really struggling to do it1.

Temple University professor and health economist Eric Keuffel understands the thinking of small business owners:

” ‘I’m not required to offer it and certainly employees value it, and it’s an important benefit, but maybe that’s the first thing that I cut back on.’ ”

(Prof. Eric Keuffel. Photo provided)

Moreover, Keuffel (right) notes, the cost of premiums have skyrocketed over the past ten years.

“In 2001, they were around $7,000 for a family-coverage premium.  In 2011, it’s now up to about $15,000 per year.”

According to statistics published by Small Business Majority, Pennsylvania’s small business owners (including the self-employed) paid $6.8 billion for premiums in 2008 and that number is expected to jump to $18 billion by 2018.

Keuffel says even though health care reform is in the middle of a political firestorm and could end up in ashes, something will have to change if hardworking folks like Millwood are expected to have businesses that survive.


Listen to the Part 2 podcast…