Waterville-Area Small Business Owners Speak Out On Health Care Cost
Mayor, Business Owners Share Personal Health Care Experiences
"Over the past year, 93% of small business owners in central Maine have seen their health care premiums go up. Some in the Waterville area have seen their rates hiked by more than 80%," said Waterville mayor and small business owner Karen Heck, speaking today at a press conference held by the Maine Small Business Coalition.
The business owners and their supporters gathered outside City Hall in Waterville to speak out against the rate hike bill passed last year, now known as Public Law 90. The law allows health insurance companies to charge higher rates for small business owners, especially those in rural areas or with older employees.
After the passage of the bill, Deborah Klane and her husband, who had owned a small health and safety consulting company, took a look at their insurance costs and made a tough decision: they closed their business and he moved to Arizona to take a job in order to afford coverage for them and their son, who has a significant medical disability.
"This is what the lack of affordable, necessary health insurance in Maine has done to this family and to other businesses across the state. People are closing their businesses, firing their employees and moving away."
Klane and Heck were joined by Erik Thomas, a Waterville city councilor and owner of Digital Image Works, a large-format digital printmaking business. Thomas currently has no health insurance coverage at all.
Outside political groups, funded by health insurance corporations like Anthem, have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the State Senate race in Waterville supporting incumbent Senator Tom Martin, who voted in favor of the legislation, and attacking challenger Colleen Lachowicz, who opposes the rate hikes.
"I'm a friend of Tom Martin, but I have to say that on this issue he voted the wrong way," said Heck. "When the bill came up in the legislature, he sided with insurance companies and against local businesses. Now those same insurance companies are attacking his opponent Colleen Lachowicz because she opposes these rate hikes and said she would vote to repeal the bill."
"We shouldn't let big insurance companies control our government and hurt our local economy. I'm glad that local businesses are standing up and speaking out."