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NC Small Business Owners Feel "Crushed" by Healthcare System

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021   

DURHAM, N.C. -- Small-business owners across the state say the pandemic has highlighted their struggles with the current healthcare system, and many want North Carolina's elected leaders to make expanding affordable healthcare a top priority.

Jared Burton, owner of J. Lights Market and Café in Durham, N.C., said he provides some form of health insurance for both part- and full-time employees, and confirmed he's spending around $4,800 per year, per worker on coverage.

"And to be entirely honest, the policies over the last 10 years have gotten worse," Burton asserted. "The reality is, you spend $4,000, but with the co-pays and coinsurances, my employees are still going to be left with $1,500-$2,000 in costs if they're just going to the doctor on a regular basis."

Burton added he supports Medicaid expansion, for which 90% of the cost would be paid by the federal government.

North Carolina is among a small group of states that has continued to refuse expansion, but research shows if lawmakers agreed to enact it, around a half-million people could gain health coverage, many of them small-business employees.

Burton pointed out navigating the healthcare system has siphoned time and money away from running his business and driving local economic growth. He added healthcare is a constant worry.

"Somebody getting hurt here at work, it scares me, about what that could do to the business," Burton explained. "And not just them, you know? Health care is a fear."

Lori Seiler, owner of Seiler Services, a janitorial company in Burlington, said she can't afford health insurance for her mostly part-time and hourly employees, although she's advocated for better health coverage as part of the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Advisory Council.

Seiler feels progress is extremely slow, particularly in less affluent counties.

"Our community has been deemed an unhealthy community," Seiler noted. "And what that does is, a lot of insurance companies choose not to come here to provide insurance."

Alamance County, where Seiler's business is based, has an 18% uninsured rate, and of the more than 10% of North Carolinians who are uninsured, 86% are working families.


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