Local Small Business Owners Speak Out Against Anthem’s Rate Hikes, Campaign Spending
Business Owners in Gorham, Westbrook and Scarborough Oppose Insurance Company Influence
Members of the Maine Small Business Coalition from Scarborough, Westbrook and Gorham gathered at The Gorham Grind coffee shop today to hold a press conference in response to $21,000 in attack ads in the local State Senate race funded by Anthem insurance company and targeting Gorham small business owner Jim Boyle.
“It’s no secret why Anthem is coming after Jim,” said MSBC director Kevin Simowitz. “Jim opposes the rate hike bill that Anthem pushed through last session and that has been devastating for Maine businesses and great for Anthem’s profits. That’s why they want to stop him from becoming a Senator.”
Many businesses in Scarborough, Gorham and Westbrook have been hit hard by rate hikes this year. Even after Gorham illustrator and small business owner Tim Sposato changed his health insurance from comprehensive coverage to a disaster-only plan with a $30,000 deductible he continued to experience rate increases. His last premium hike from Anthem, after the passage of Public Law 90, was 16%.
“At the same time, over the last few years many of us small business owners have experienced a decline in arnings,” said Sposato. “The cost of health insurance is the one consistent reason I hear from former small business owners as to why they shut down. If we did not have two kids, my wife and I would drop our insurance and take our chances. Last year our insurance cost about 17% of our combined income. If you include what we paid out of pocket, our medical expenses cost 31% of our income.”
Carson Lynch, owner of The Gorham Grind, said that it’s not just the business owners experiencing rate hikes that are suffering, but the many business owners, like himself, that have been priced out of the insurance market completely.
“Despite enjoying the support of this community and modest annual growth for the last seven years, my business has never been able to provide health insurance for myself or for my employees. I spend a lot of time keeping my fingers crossed when it comes to my health care,” said Lynch. “You can imagine, then, how I felt then when I learned that the insurance industry is funding $21,000 worth of attack ads against a good person and a small business owner who has said he won’t be owned by Anthem and will stand up to their rate hikes.”
The $21,000 in campaign spending, which came through the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Senate Republican Majority PAC, has gone to an ad currently running on cable television accusing Jim Boyle of wanting to raise taxes. It’s expected to be just the beginning of a great deal of money spent on independent expenditures in the race.
The rate hike bill itself actually contains a tax of four dollars a month on everyone in Maine with health insurance, with the revenue going to Anthem and other insurance companies.
For Elizabeth Beane, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and small business owner in Senate District 6, one of the worst parts of the rate hike bill is the removal of the oversight over premium increases of up to 10% by Maine’s Bureau of Insurance. She had often engaged in the oversight process by testifying at public hearings.
“Last year, when Anthem attempted to raise rates by more than 20%, the Bureau of Insurance stepped in through the rate review process and limited their increase to only 5.2%,” said Beane. “Now, thanks to the rate hike law, that protection is gone. Anthem is now allowed to raise its rates unchecked by up to 10% every year. It won’t be long before small business owners like me, who have barely been hanging on to our insurance, will have to give it up completely.”