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Survey: Healthcare Costs Drowning WA Small Biz

June 23, 2008

Seattle, WA – Health insurance costs in Washington have risen by about one-third for businesses in the past three years - but for small businesses, the price hike has been 91 percent over that time period. In a new survey of 400 Washington companies by AARP Washington, owners said they're trimming coverage and passing more costs along to employees. Some have even dropped health insurance altogether.

Troy Nichols, state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), says the results aren't surprising, and they make it harder for small companies to keep employees and stay afloat.

"More than anything, I think this survey proved what we already knew, but shows how acute the problem is getting. The price of fuel, food costs – everything seems to be getting more expensive. So, our folks are really confronted with some pretty tough decisions in this economy."

More than half the businesses surveyed say health insurance costs have reduced their profits, and 28 percent report they've cut back on other benefits or eliminated raises and bonuses in order to pay the higher insurance costs. Nichols believes Washington companies are better off than in other parts of the country, but not by much.

"Nationally, our membership has reported almost a 130 percent increase in rates since the year 2000. So, this survey of Washington businesses seems to bear that out."

The NFIB would like to see more insurance options being offered in Washington, as well as lower costs. The survey is part of AARP's "Divided We Fail" campaign, which targets healthcare and financial security as Americans' two top priorities for the future.

See the survey results online at www.aarp.org/research.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA