Huge Health Care Rate Hikes Prompt Bangor Business Owners to Speak Out
Maine Small Business Coalition Opposes Insurance Company Influence in Local Election
Insurance premiums for small businesses have jumped in the Bangor area following the passage of a state insurance deregulation bill last year. As the election approaches, local business owners and the Maine Small Business Coalition are concerned about these premium increases and angry that Anthem Insurance has spent so much money in the Bangor and Hermon Senate Race in what seems to be an attempt to protect their rate hikes.
Don Hanson, owner of Green Acre Kennels on union Street saw his premiums increase by 23.3% after the passage of Public Law 90, and that was after he substantially downgraded his plan and increased his deductible.
"Like most small business owners I am an employee of my small business and know that what is good for my employees is good for me," said Hanson. "I cannot express how disappointed I am that the insurance industry has so much power and money to influence elections and the decisions made by legislators who are supposed to be working for the public good. Small businesses, our employees and families, shouldn't be treated like cash cows for the insurance industry. I'm disappointed that my State Senator, and Representative voted in favor of this legislation and I will remember that when I vote this year."
Maine Small Business Coalition director Kevin Simowitz says it's unfortunate that Anthem is funneling so much money into the race to support Senator Nichi Farnham and attack her opponent, Dr. Geoff Gratwick, but it's no secret why it's happening. Farnham voted for the bill and Gratwick has said he would vote to repeal the rate hike provisions.
"Most of the money for the attack ads targeting Gratwick has come from the Republican State Leadership Committee, for which Anthem is the largest donor," said Simowitz. "Anthem pushed through legislation last session that has been devastating for Maine businesses but great for Anthem's profits. Dr. Gratwick opposed them, and why they want to stop him from becoming a Senator."
Other business owners in Bangor can't afford any health insurance. Steve Dunn, who owns Dunn's Home Improvement, for instance, has no coverage at all.
"Last I checked, insurance was more than $1,000 a month and I just make enough money to get by week to week," said Dunn. "These rate hikes have put health care completely out of reach for lots of small businesses like mine."
Mike Cormier, who along with his wife owns both Bangor Radiator and What's The Scoop Ice Cream, has insurance through his wife's other job but can't afford coverage for his employees.
"It's unfortunate that the insurance companies have so much political power," said Cormier.
The Bangor and Hermon State Senate race has already broken records for the amount of money spent by outside groups. The result on Tuesday is expected to be close.