Biz owner: Insure several, or just one?

Doctor holds out stethoscope

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: We've been looking at the various stakeholders in the health care debate this week. While most large companies offer some health coverage, fewer than half of small-business owners insure their employees. Small businesses typically pay 20 percent more in premiums than big companies. And if one worker is sick or old, that can raise the price of insurance for everyone.

Here's the story of a small-business owner who's been trying to balance her business and her employees' benefits for 20 years.


Kristina Runciman: My name is Kristina Runciman. I live in Kingsport, Tenn. My business name is Life Force Glass Incorporated. We're giftware manufacturers, we imprint inspirational messages on glass stones, river rocks, glass hearts.

At one point, I had 22 employees. Eventually, we got to where we're only seven people. Now we're in the ridiculous situation that we insure the management group, and there's only one other person, and I can't insure her.

It makes me feel awful, it makes me feel morally ambiguous. She's a young woman with several pre-existing conditions, plus a family with health issues. And if I insured her, or attempted to, no one in my group, including myself, would have insurance.

If we could join a larger group in an association and the pool was bigger, I'm sure there'd be no problem, there would be so many more people that healthy people would average out with the not-so-healthy people. But we don't have anything like that available to us. And for a group of one family and three individuals, we don't have a lot of buying power.

And how did it ever start that employers are responsible for individuals' health care? When I go to trade shows and I talk to other manufacturers, most of 'em just don't even deal with it. They don't insure themselves, they don't insure their employees.

Radke: That was Kristina Runciman. She owns Life Force Glass, a gift manufacturer in Kingsport, Tenn. This segment of our series, "The Cure," was produced by Mitchell Hartman.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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