For some Routt County business owners, providing affordable health insurance remains an ongoing battle | SteamboatToday.com

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

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.

— 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.

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"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

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