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VA law prevents utility shutoffs in extreme circumstances; MI construction industry responds to a high number of worker suicides; 500,000 still without power or water in the Houston area; KY experts: Children, and babies at higher risk for heat illness.

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The House passes the SAVE Act, but fails to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt of Congress, and a proposed federal budget could doom much-needed public services.

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Enticing remote workers to move is a new business strategy in rural America, Eastern Kentucky preservationists want to save the 20th century home of a trailblazing coal miner, and a rule change could help small meat and poultry growers and consumers.

NC Small Businesses Demand Action on Costs Linked to Hospital Mergers

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Friday, March 31, 2023   

Small-business owners in North Carolina are reaching out to legislators for help, citing hospital mergers as one reason their health-care costs are soaring.

The fusion of former hospital competitors has left employers in the state with fewer options for services, as well as higher expenses for both companies and workers, which could ultimately hinder business expansion.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell revealed that even at the top levels, they're grappling with challenges such as cost transparency.

"The fact," he said, "is that this is the only product in your life that you don't know the value and the price of it, even after you have consumed it."

In a recent national poll, 45% of entrepreneurs said soaring health-insurance costs have forced them to hit the brakes on expanding their businesses. The majority of companies in North Carolina are small businesses, but together they employ more than 1.7 million people. So, Folwell said, the higher rates could signal lasting economic impact.

Greater NC Black Chamber of Commerce regional president Valerie Benton Smith stressed the urgent need for affordable, quality health care for businesses to stay competitive. She emphasized that without regulations on hospital consolidation and pricing, small companies in particular will keep facing obstacles.

"Small-business owners struggling with the expense of providing health-care benefits to their employees face a stark choice when costs rise," she said, "drop or cut health-care benefits, making it hard to attract quality candidates or divert funds to health care."

She said addressing the growing burden of escalating health-insurance costs is essential to ensure the growth and stability of small businesses. In the survey by the group Small Business for America's Future, 86% of business owners said they believe federal and state governments should actively intervene in health-system consolidations.


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