Insurance & Financial Advisor

New Jersey Woodworker Crafts Health Care Reform Proposal For Congress

Insurance & Financial Advisor — Friday, May 1, 2009

By JODI GODFREY

Conklin

The owner of a Bloomfield, N.J., architectural woodworking company urged Congress to pass health care reform that helps small business, saying increased transparency and boosting competition through a public health insurance option are critical steps.

"We employ 13 people, occupy 12,000 square feet of loft space, and serve some of the most influential people in the world," said Kelly Conklin, owner of Foley-Waite Associates, told the House Ways & Means Committee at an April 29 hearing on employer-sponsored health insurance.

Conklin said greater transparency and the restoration of competition through the creation of a public health insurance option would help small businesses overcome the costs of providing their employees with health insurance.

"It's time to have the insurance companies come clean in plain English, explain where our premium money goes, and say up front what's covered and what's not," Conklin said. "A well designed public health insurance option would finally give small businesses like mine real bargaining power, provide a guaranteed backup, and introduce greater transparency. Most importantly, by creating genuine competition and restoring vitality to the market dynamic, innovation in the private sector will occur."

Conklin started his business with business partner and wife Kit in 1978. The business has served commercial clients, including Prudential Insurance, Schering Plough and Merck, as well as high-end residential customers in New York City for the past 15 years. "We fork over $6,000 a month in health insurance premiums, close to 20% of payroll — one of the largest single expenses in our budget," Conklin told the committee.

Conklin, a member of the New Jersey Main Street Alliance, a statewide coalition of 300 small business owners devoted to advance health reform that helps small businesses, recounted his frustrations with the current health insurance market. "April is a month I dread, not for taxes — taxes are simple, I call my accountant — but health insurance renewal is a nightmare," Conklin said. "The health insurance market has failed to deliver on its promise for small businesses."

In his testimony, Conklin urged the committee to level the playing field for small businesses that want to do right by their employees. "When responsible employers offer coverage and others don't, it creates an un-level playing field. We'd be better off if all employers are contributing a reasonable amount, instead of this game of cost-shifting," he said.

Conklin compared health care efforts to his work. "As a cabinet maker, I think about it like this. "A toolbox holds a variety of tools, each perfected to perform a specific task. With health care we've tried to do everything with a hammer. The public plan option is a critical tool missing from the toolbox — one that could stem rising costs."

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