Lowndes businesses seek cheaper insurance costs - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lowndes businesses seek cheaper insurance costs

January 16, 2007

Naylor - Jerome Riley is co-owner of a family business.  He and his father manufacture and sell church pews and furniture, and work long hours around dangerous equipment.

Knowing he has health care coverage puts his mind at ease.  "Everyone needs health care.  Everyone needs that security to be able to go out and do their job and not have to worry if something happens," says Riley, co-owner of Riley Church Pews in Naylor.

But owning and running a business is expensive and having his own health insurance is something he can't afford.  "It's real expensive being self employed to try and get it on your own.  That's why I'm blessed to have a wife who is employed by the government and provides me with insurance," he adds.

But many small business owners in Georgia aren't so lucky.  "We do have a problem with that.  Most areas have a problem with the uninsured, our area has about a 14 percent uninsured rate," says Mark Wilson, Chairman of the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee.

Each year these people appeal to their local officials for help.  And the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce has listened. 

Next week they'll meet with local and state elected officials and insurance companies to implement a pilot program to lower the cost of health insurance.  "We can all sit down at the table and think about how we can design a program that will lay the foundation for what the insurance product may look like," he say.

They say getting it to the local businesses could take a few years, but owners have no doubt it will help.  "That's part of the reason we are in business is to make money and the less we spend the better," says Riley.

And employees will work better knowing they'll soon be covered.

They are also working to start a program promoting a healthier lifestyle in the workplace which could make businesses eligible to receive 10 percent off health insurance costs.