Health care debate sparks concerns

July 23, 2009 4:46:37 AM PDT
Small businesses and their employees are paying special attention to the health care debate.Some people who run small businesses are concerned about the costs while many of their workers are just concerned about getting coverage.

Shundrice Tucker has health insurance for the first time in her adult life.

The 30-year-old says it was a key consideration when accepting a job earlier this month as a program manager at the YMCA in Evanston. She says until recently, simple health scares had the power to bankrupt her.

"I had an ambulance ride to the hospital. That was like $475. Then for the doctor to see me that was about $320, to see me for five minutes," said Shundrice Tucker.

The McGaw YMCA pays 70 percent of health insurance costs for its full-time employees. The price: More than a half-a-million dollars each year.

"My position is I can't afford not to," said Bill Geiger, McGaw YMCA director. "Health care coverage helps provide our employees the kind of environment in which we want to work."

Just a few blocks away, the brothers who run an exotic Belgian chocolate store say their full-time employee goes without health care coverage so he can take home more pay. While the business's small size may mean it'll be exempt from proposed government mandates, the bottom line is still the same.

"How we go about getting it and how we go about funding it ultimately is always the question. Who comes up with the dollars?" said Robert Piron, Belgian Chocolatier Piron.

For Shundrice Tucker, more benefits made up for a slightly smaller paycheck.

"You get health insurance and you have this feeling of security. You have something in your corner," said Tucker.

Small business owners have a lot at stake in this battle.

The House version of the health care reform bill would penalize any company with a payroll of more than $250,000 if it doesn't provide workers with insurance.

If you're self-employed and don't buy yourself insurance, you could see a 2.5 percent tax slapped on your income.

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