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Capital News Service

       LANSING- John Lund, owner of Geal Electric Co. in Monroe, doesn’t worry too

much about his company’s annually rising health insurance costs.

       As a union contractor, he is required to provide health insurance for his six

employees. Higher costs are simply “passed along to the customer,” he said, through

raised service costs. “There’s not a lot we could do about it.”

       Lund is not alone. The cost of renewing health insurance plans will rise 2 percent

more for small businesses—those with 10 to 499 employees—than for all other

businesses in 2009. The rise amounts to a 10 percent increase overall, according to an

annual national survey of employer-sponsored health plans.

       Geal Electirc services electrical repairs and installations in Monroe and Wayne

counties. The company’s current service rate for repair is $68 per hour, up $20 an hour

from five years ago and $6 an hour from last year. The higher price reflects changes in

wages and other expenses, but “health care is a pretty major expense,” Lund said.

       The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) claims to have found a

solution to continuously rising health insurance costs.

       The group is lobbying for a state requirement that all Michigan residents have

health insurance and has named affordable health insurance as its No. 1 issue for the last

10 years, President Rob Fowler said. “If everybody has health insurance, the cost goes

down for everybody.”
        Eleven percent of Michigan residents were uninsured in 2006 and 2007, up 0.3

percent from 2004 and 2005, according to U.S. Census data. Coverage by private

employment-based insurance, the type small business owners would purchase, fell nearly

2 percent.

        “Some small businesses absolutely cannot afford to provide health insurance to

their employees. Employers drop health insurance plans as an act of desperation,” Fowler


        Unlike Lund, 59 percent of employers taking action to lower costs of health

insurance in 2009 will shift part of the burden to their employees by raising deductibles,

co-payments, coinsurance or employee out-of-pocket spending limits, according to

Mercer, the international investment and consulting firm based in New York that

conducted the survey of 13,000 businesses.

        Lund, who has owned Geal Electric since 1988, said he would support legislation

to require health insurance because “it’s very important to employees.”

        SBAM’s plan resembles Massachusetts’s bold health care overhaul in 2006 that

requires all residents to have health insurance. Those who don’t have it are penalized

with higher taxes.

        Controversial as the legislation was, Massachusetts now ties with Hawaii for the

lowest percentage of U.S. residents without coverage. Nationally, 47 million Americans

were without health insurance, whether public—Medicare, Medicaid state children’s

health insurance program or military benefits—or private in 2006, according to a new

Census report.

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