Businesses struggle to find insurance

Daily Press writer

When it comes to finding health insurance for small businesses in Northwest Colorado, Cathy Vanatta, executive director for the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said it is enough to make one sick.

"We're having a horrible time finding it," Vanatta said. "Most small businesses don't have health insurance. Even if you can find it, it is so expensive."

Recent reports showed that throughout Colorado 85,000 workers have been left without health insurance because the number of companies that will write those policies dwindle while premiums soar.

Kyle Revelle, an insurance agent at Moffat Insurance Agency, said there were only 18 companies statewide that are willing to offer coverage for small businesses.

"We in this corner of the state have been limited to a small amount of companies that will even write for small businesses in the area," he said.

"The state has lost a tremendous amount of companies in the last three or four years," he said.

Revelle could not give an estimate of how many people were uninsured in the area, but gave examples of why it is difficult to provide coverage.

"When you get down to small businesses of 25 employees or less, I have no idea how many don't have coverage for their employees," he said. "But if you take your average cost for employees it's going to run in the $300 to $400 range and that's for young people. For people in their 50s, I would estimate the average cost is in the $600 range."

Every business is feeling the effect of high insurance, he said.

"It's a major problem for all businesses," he said. "Not just small businesses but large ones also."

"It used to be you could keep employees by providing them with benefits," he said. "But now it's become too expensive to do that."

Premiums have tripled in 10 years and are expected to go up 15 percent this year and double-digits again next year, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Vanatta and Revelle were part of a lobbying group pushing for legislation that might assist small businesses in providing health insurance.

While there was some limited success, Vanatta said the legislation passed would have no direct benefit in Moffat County.

The chamber director says politics often gets in the way of successful legislation.

"We need to put pressure on legislators to do the right thing," Vanatta said. "We need to come up with a compromise that will help

all of Colorado. I'm really discouraged. I look at all the time and effort that's put into this and I'm discouraged."

Vanatta said while she did not know how many workers did not have health insurance, she did venture to guess that some 2,000 residents in Moffat County could be without health insurance because employees cannot receive the benefit for themselves or their families.

Pam Thompson, community relations director for The Memorial Hospital, said the hospital does see an impact from those who do not have health insurance.

One out of every five patients that goes to the emergency room does not have health insurance.

"Of those that don't, we write off 95 percent of those charges," Thompson said.

Thompson said in 2001 the hospital received $457,000 for indigent care those who do not have insurance or cannot afford to pay for services from Moffat County.

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