GOVERNOR PATRICK MEETS WITH SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS, HIGHLIGHTS EFFORTS TO CURB RISING HEALTH CARE COSTS
North Central MA Business Owners Talk Job Creation, Economic Growth
"We have taken emergency action because companies like J&R Glass are struggling under the weight of double-digit increases in health insurance premiums," said Governor Patrick. "Small businesses are vital to our regional and state economies, and the time to solve this problem is now."
Along with Bessette, the Governor spoke with Cynthia Boucher of Commonwealth Water Purification Co. in Winchendon, and Bob Feen of Feen's Country Living in Fitchburg. The three business owners discussed their companies' battle to hold down insurance costs while experiencing double-digit increases year after year, in many instances, preventing them from expansion.
"We have seen tremendous increases in our premiums, which are up 33 percent in the last six years despite our lowering benefits and increasing deductibles. Our most recent increase in November will cost us $15,000," said Kathy Alexander, the Controller at J&R Glass. "We are encouraged by the Governor's efforts on this issue, and hope that others involved in the process work with him, because like everyone else we are struggling to maintain benefits for our employees."
The Governor's Jobs Bill, which he filed in February and continues to call for the Legislature to act on, contains several proposals aimed at containing skyrocketing health care costs. The plan also includes measures to provide businesses with access to working capital, ease unemployment insurance costs, extend tax relief to businesses that create new jobs, and establish a new organization dedicated to providing the resources businesses need to grow.
In an effort to provide immediate relief for small business owners, Governor Patrick also directed the Commissioner of the Division of Insurance, under existing authority, to disapprove base health insurance rates deemed unreasonable or excessive. On April 1, the Division of Insurance disapproved 235 of 274 rate increases proposed by carriers, finding the rates were excessive or unreasonable relative to the benefit provided. Disapprovals held rates at April 2009 levels for thousands of small businesses across Commonwealth, helping businesses and families around the state cut costs.
"Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray have taken the issue of health care costs very seriously. It's been an issue of constant discussion on Beacon Hill. In fact, last week the Senate passed legislation to spur economic growth by providing small businesses the immediate health care cost relief they need to retain and create jobs and start hiring again. There is a real appetite at the state level to control these costs; from small business to municipalities, to the state level, its devouring our budgets," said Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan.
"The City of Fitchburg is once again thankful and appreciative of the Governor's commitment to our community. His efforts on behalf of small businesses like J&R Glass to bring runaway health insurance costs under control is greatly appreciated. Small businesses are the backbone of our cities economic wellbeing and we must continue to ensure their viability and prosperity," said Representative Stephen L. DiNatale.
"We applaud the Administration's initiative to curb insurance costs. This will be a huge benefit for the many great small business, like J&R Glass, that call Fitchburg home," said Fitchburg Mayor Lisa A. Wong.
In addition to reducing health care costs, the Governor's comprehensive job-growth legislation includes a $2,500 tax credit for every created and retained full-time equivalent job this year, relief to employers by freezing the unemployment insurance rate increase schedule for 2010, and the consolidation of three agencies responsible for small-business finance into the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.
Since taking office, Governor Patrick has maintained a strong focus on creating an environment for businesses to grow and create jobs here in Massachusetts by lowering the corporate tax rate, streamlining permitting and cutting state permitting time to six months or less, and investing in the state's broken roads and bridges by putting people to work on hundreds of infrastructure projects across the state.