Healthcare costs impacting small businesses

CHARLOTTE, NC — According to a recent survey, dozens of small businesses in North Carolina are reporting that rising health insurance costs are stifling their growth or forcing them to hike rates.

National nonprofit Small Business for America’s Future surveyed 109 small business owners in North Carolina with up to 500 employees. The majority of respondents had 10 or fewer employees.

what you need to know

  • Small Business for America’s Future survey results show that dozens of North Carolina business owners are not offering employee health insurance due to cost concerns
  • The survey shows that employee healthcare costs have had a negative impact on North Carolina businesses
  • Small Business for America’s Future plans to use the results to lobby Congress to reduce health care costs for small business employees

Kenneth Fields, who owns IT-HenHouse in Charlotte, is one of the interviewees. His company helps companies consolidate technology systems. It is also an authorized reseller of IT hardware and software.

Fields, a US Army veteran, is currently hiring contractors in the US and abroad for projects. He wants to hire full-time employees but worries about the cost of health insurance for employees.

“Nobody should be left behind when it comes to health insurance,” Fields said.

He would like to pay the entire premium for future employees, but he cannot afford it. A recent price estimate for 50 employees showed that he would pay $1,000 a month for just one employee.

“That would be a challenge for us,” Fields said.

The survey found he’s not alone, with 72% of respondents saying they don’t offer employee health insurance because it’s too expensive.

“It affects us from a recruiting perspective,” Fields said.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide affordable health insurance. However, Fields said small business owners like him want to do the same.

“I want to stay with the core of my being. As a retired military veteran, I know what the United States has done for us as a family. But as my wife says, in the military we are designed to protect people and I want to protect people. So it’s important for me to run this business, regardless of my earnings, to keep an eye on these people,” Fields said.

He said offering health care to employees is an incentive that would help him attract more employees and grow his business.

Respondents indicated that not offering this benefit made them less competitive, delayed growth and stopped hiring. Fields said job creation helps the economy.

“It’s impacting the community because if they don’t have a job or position at IT-HenHouse, where exactly are they going to go?” Fields said.

Small Business for America’s Future is using the information from this survey to lobby Congress to reduce employee healthcare costs.

According to the North Carolina survey, 86% of small business owners strongly believe this is an issue that lawmakers need to address.

Small Business for America’s Future vice chair Erika Gonzalez said the results show business owners want change now.

“They agree with everything that needs to be done to reduce healthcare costs. For them, it’s more of an urgency. They want them to just take action and not care so much about how it gets done as just getting it done,” Gonzalez said.

Fields said even if costs stay the same, he would hire full-time staff next year, but he would be forced to raise the price for customers.

“I think it means we’re really committed to them if we take them at the employee level, but I don’t want health care to be a barrier,” Fields said.

Requiring hospitals to disclose negotiated reimbursement rates and capping patients’ out-of-pocket costs were two of the ideas most advocated by survey participants for reducing staff healthcare costs.

Small Business of America’s Future also conducted a nationwide survey of business owners.

Spectrum News 1 reached out to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna and the North Carolina Healthcare Association for their response to the survey results. As of Tuesday we had no reply.