Small Businesses To Feel Insurance Hike

Twenty-four percent, that's how much more next year Marine Life will have to pay for its employees' insurance. The director says because most of his 25 workers are women under age 30, he can't help but think he's being discriminated against, especially since none of his staff filed health claims last year.

"Apparently, the insurance companies regard female workers as a bigger health risk, and consequently they charge you more," Marine Life Director Dr. Moby Solangi said. "Marine Life has more female workers, and I think by increasing our rates because we have female workers and healthy workers, we're being penalized for being good."

Darcy Reuter is one of Marine Life's bird trainers. She too can't understand why insurance companies seem to single out women.

"I just don't know what they would base that upon."

Dr. Solangi says each year it gets harder and harder for the company to absorb rising costs.

"We have to do something. Either we raise our admission rates or we cut their benefits and it is not good for the consumer."

Still, insurance providers say as health costs and the price for indigent care skyrocket, so will the benefits.

"Utilization, employees along the coast use their health insurance a lot," benefits consultant Sherri Baker said. "That's going to translate into more costs for the insurance company, and they're going to pass that on to the employers."

Employers are not required to offer health coverage, and higher prices could discourage some from doing so.

"Every employer situation, when you have a 20, 25, 30-percent rate increase, that hits your bottom line.  It's very difficult to absorb that with increased revenue."

Baker adds that small businesses will find that particularly true as they try to keep up with insurance that some say is out of control.