Waitress Karli Quarto sets up a table at Big House Burgers & Bottlecap Bar  in Steamboat Springs. Local business owners continue to struggle with ways to keep costs down while providing employees with affordable health care.

Photo by John F. Russell

Waitress Karli Quarto sets up a table at Big House Burgers & Bottlecap Bar in Steamboat Springs. Local business owners continue to struggle with ways to keep costs down while providing employees with affordable health care.

For some Routt County business owners, providing affordable health insurance remains an ongoing battle


Reader poll

What is the status of your health insurance?

  • I’m fully insured. 70%
  • I’m underinsured. 8%
  • I’m uninsured. 22%

357 total votes.

— Rex Brice wants to provide health insurance for the 140 employees who work at his five Steamboat Springs restaurants. But doing so simply is cost prohibitive, he said.

“A tremendous percentage of our workforce has been uninsured. I have always felt strongly everyone should be insured,” Brice said. “When people aren’t insured, other people pay the price of that.”

Brice said he worked with an insurance company in 2007 to develop a plan that would offer coverage to all of his employees. He had to scrap the plan after a minimum wage increase made it financially unfeasible.

Until about two years ago, Brice said, his family and his management team were on a group health insurance plan. But after the cost of the plan continued to increase year after year, he switched to providing managers with stipends they can use to purchase their own insurance.

At Ace Hardware in Curve Plaza, the rising cost of health insurance also is taking a toll.

Manager Scott Schlapkohl said the cost of health insurance for his 35 employees increased by 7 percent this year, following a 10 to 15 percent increase last year.

“When the cost goes up for us, it also goes up for our employees,” Schlapkohl said. “Some people can’t afford it, and they don’t get it.”

He said the increasing cost of insurance causes employers like him to analyze insurance options constantly to see whether savings can be gained by making a change.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com


John St Pierre 4 years, 3 months ago

SO who pays when an employee goes to Medical Center or Emergency Room???? You read everyday Cut Cut Cut Social programs.... but it is those programs that cover those who cannot afford medical care..... cut these programs and in the end the hospital does not get paid for the full amount and we who can pay will see the costs go up and up.... is that fair??? Why should I pay for Rex's profitability... yes a harsh question... but that is the bottom line......... Is it the Hospital greed?? the Doctors Greed?? Unregulated insurance companies???? Corporate greed??? Do we go back to the past when the low income had no medical care?


john bailey 4 years, 3 months ago

john, its us, the working who is gonna pay. and yes we're heading back to the past.


Fred Duckels 4 years, 3 months ago

There is no free lunch and the administration realizes this but the ensuing fiasco will be theirs to relish. Talk about dying and going to heaven.


mark hartless 4 years, 3 months ago

Healthcare is way more abundant and way cheaper now than it is going to be in the future...when it is "free".


rhys jones 4 years, 3 months ago

How many employees do you guys provide health insurance for?


Scott Wedel 4 years, 3 months ago

Healthcare system is broken in two fundamental ways.

1) Uninsured people get medical care by showing up in emergency rooms. The insured and the government end up paying for that medical care. So as the number of uninsured increase then that adds costs to the insured which makes the problems of insurance that much worse.

2) Health insurance is not like normal insurance where the odds of a person having a claim is basically random. The need for healthcare is overall quite predictable

Nor does it make any great sense for a person's employer to be their healthcare provider. That originated during WW II when there was wage controls and companies wanted to be able to attract workers.

We have ended up with a deeply messed up system that is costing us twice as much per citizen than other developed countries and they are getting better results. That did not used to be true. Where the government already is 50% of the healthcare system and, in theory, spending enough to cover everyone if our system was as effective as elsewhere.

But we have this system where individuals get to pick coverage without facing the costs, hospitals to attract patients buy the latest equipment that ends up being used far less often than in other countries and so the overhead costs are much higher, healthcare companies lobby Congress to increase payments for their products, billing and playing the system to get maximize reimbursements becomes an important management skill, and so on.

We have a system where so the healthcare system has, as the highest priority, maximizing their profits and the patients and taxpayer is at the bottom.


mark hartless 4 years, 3 months ago


The great thing about being a pessimist is that one is usually proven correct and when wrong it's a PLEASANT surprise.

Scott is largely correct here.

I would add that, if people expected their car insurance to pay for oil changes, new tires, wash and wax, etc, somethink akin to exactly what they do when it comes to healthcare, then that insurance would be just as ridiculous as health insurance.

Furthermore, having no vested interest in the cost will inflate ANY industry, not just healthcare. Look at what cheap college loans have done to college tuitions.


mark hartless 4 years, 3 months ago

Here's some pleasant news...

The temperature has warmed up 31 degrees from this morning's low at my house.

The bad news is it's still minus 5.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 3 months ago


Well, I think our system is more like a car warranty that doesn't care if the owner never changed the oil or did basic preventive maintenance. We even allow people to take black goo from rotting food and use it instead of oil, but still warranty the car. Which is why a warranty from a car dealer requires you bring it in so that it can be maintained or the warranty is voided. The cost of that preventive maintenance is small compared to the cost of the engine replacement and so at times has been thrown in as part of the purchase price.

In the US we provide healthcare to pregnant women whose only contact with a doctor is when they show up in the emergency room in labor at 30 weeks. The most basic prenatal care would have saved tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. That just does not happen in other countries with good healthcare. They make sure there is no excuse to not have prenatal visits which may include visits from nurses to just make sure vitals and such are okay.


Fred Duckels 4 years, 3 months ago

Health care was approved by gathering all the players and cutting each a deal. How can this be cheaper when all the participants are made whole in order to pass?. It will not work but it will end up in the govt's lap and that is where it was intended in the first place.


max huppert 4 years, 3 months ago

what about all the illegals that get free services that american legals pick up the tab for.


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.