Friday, June 19, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

- Steve McDonagh can be contacted at


Health care costs are suffocating small business. Yes, I saw all kinds of headlines this week about health care reform and how small businesses are bearing the brunt of the current run up in health care costs and insurance premiums – and may well be expected to carry the load in any future health care reform package.

What is surprising to me about these stories is that it didn’t just become news this week –this has been an issue for small business for years. Here at the VBJ, we have been writing about it for more three years.

Employees are now more concerned with benefit packages than they are by the actual monetary compensation they receive. Many small business owners are “trying to do the right thing” by offering health benefits to their employees, but the continuous increases in premiums are making it more and more difficult to continue doing the right thing.

Why do small employers even try? Because we live here with our employees. We know their kids, see each other at the store or the Little League field. The big companies that don’t offer benefits or who manage their employees’ hours so they’re ineligible for benefits don’t have to worry about doing the right thing.

The corporate officers making the decision don’t shop at the farmers market on Saturday, attend the church around the corner or listen to free concerts in Esther Short Park on Thursday nights. They don’t have to see their employees struggling to pay their insurance premiums or hefty medical bills. There is quite simply no motivation for them to make it better because they believe that making it better for their employees will make it worse for the bottom line.

No one knows for sure what is going to come of the current efforts in Washington, D.C., to affect some kind of health care reform. What I do know is that small businesses need to make their voices heard and NOW. Contact the offices of Congressman Brian Baird and Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. Let them know exactly what impact the continued rise in insurance premiums has meant to your business and your employees. Let’s help Congress see what needs to be done so small business owners can continue to do the right thing!

The VBJ staff congratulates Jennifer and Kris Small on the arrival of their new daughter, Amaya. Best of luck!