Providence, RI – As the debate over health care reform continues in Washington, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today heard from Rhode Island small business owners about the effect of sky-high health insurance rates. Whitehouse hosted a roundtable discussion with the local businesses at Donna’s Grill on the Hill in Providence.
“For these Rhode Island small businesses and thousands more around the country, the rising cost of health insurance is simply unsustainable,” said Whitehouse. “I’m working hard in the Senate to make sure a final health care reform bill lowers costs for businesses so they can focus on what’s important: growing their businesses and boosting our American economy.”
Local business owners attending today’s roundtable included Rob Cagnetta, of Heritage Restoration in Providence. Cagnetta currently provides health insurance for his eight employees, but has seen the cost of that insurance triple in recent years. He shared his concern with Whitehouse that it will be difficult to continue offering quality health insurance to his employees if costs keep rising.
Whitehouse served temporarily this year on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as it crafted and eventually passed sweeping health care reform legislation. That legislation would provide new credits to help small businesses continue to offer health insurance to their employees and bans insurance companies from raising rates on a small business, watering down coverage, or denying coverage altogether just because one worker has a serious illness. It would also open insurance Gateways to small businesses to give new affordable insurance options to small employers. This would give small businesses the same strong bargaining leverage and broad risk pooling that large businesses enjoy.
The HELP Committee legislation is in the process of being merged with a similar bill from the Senate Finance Committee before consideration by the full Senate.