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Small Businesses Look for Help on Health Care Coverage

first_imgSmall Businesses Look for Help on Health Care CoverageBURLINGTON, VT, June 16, 2008 – Most Vermont small businesses see it as their responsibility to provide health coverage to employees, but all are struggling with the rising cost, according to a survey report released today by AARP Vermont. AARP conducted an independent telephone survey of some 400 Vermont business owners with 50 or fewer employees. Clearly, the study exposes a group that is buried under the escalating costs of health care and being forced out of the market, while battling high energy costs and an economy in recession. The survey reveals a better understanding of what Vermont’s small business owners have been experiencing due to increasing health coverage costs, their opinions surrounding the issue and whether the Catamount Health Plan would appeal to them if made available.The findings showed that most small employers offer health coverage because they need it for themselves and because they feel a responsibility to do so, not for competitive or bottom-line reasons. Some 57% of respondents offer coverage, with larger employers more likely to provide the benefit, and nearly all say the premiums have risen over the past several years. In response, a significant number of businesses (48%) have changed to high-deductible plans which require employees to pay premiums and satisfy a hefty deductible before receiving any coverage. Other responses to rising costs include increasing employee contributions (27%), reducing benefits (26%) and even dropping plans altogether (16%). This pattern does not serve the interests of Vermont consumers and burdens the health care system itself. Nevertheless, it is likely to continue with more and more organizations reporting they will have to take similar actions in the next few years as premiums continue to rise.Catamount Health – the new, affordable, comprehensive insurance plan available to uninsured Vermonters – is currently not open to small businesses. If made available, affordably, to small businesses and the self-employed, the majority are likely to consider enrolling in the plan, according to the survey results. Of those not currently offering any health coverage benefit, fully 80% would consider enrolling in the plan if they could while 60% of those already offering insurance would look at switching to Catamount.AARP worked closely with lawmakers and others in pushing for the development and passage of the Catamount Health Plan. As the organization now works toward enrolling more uninsured Vermonters in the plan and improving plan provisions, it has become clear that smaller employers – the bulk of the business community – are a key in getting coverage to many residents with no coverage or costly high-deductible plans. Furthermore, hundreds of Vermont small business owners and sole proprietors are AARP members and are very concerned about the crisis in health care costs.”We ask our elected leaders in Montpelier to open the doors to affordable health insurance to small Vermont businesses – the backbone of our business community,” said Jim Leddy, AARP state president and one of the architects of the state sponsored plan. “The status quo is no longer acceptable. The only alternative for these businesses can not be to reduce, drop or not offer health insurance at all,” he said. “Quite simply, offering the Catamount Health Plan to small businesses, their employees and the self-employed is part of the solution to covering the uninsured and dealing with the rising cost of health care.”Leddy explained that AARP and the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security are working to bring small businesses together to speak for themselves on the issue. It is expected that a proposal will go before the Legislature next session to approve a version of Catamount Health for small businesses. “We want to give voice to the thousands of small business owners struggling to take care of their employees. We hope these findings will help inform the debate in Montpelier,” said Leddy.AARP is part of a coalition representing the voice of Vermont small businesses and sole proprietors. It encourages those who want to help push for an expansion of Catamount to small businesses to contact Heather Riemer at the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security at 1-802-343-1705.The survey interviews were conducted by Woelfel Research, Inc. in late March and early April of 2008 with a random sample of Vermont businesses as compiled by Dun & Bradstreet.AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization with 128,000 members in Vermont and 39 million members nationally. Through a wide array of special benefits, services, and information resources, we help our members make important choices, reach their goals and dreams, and make the most of life after 50. ###last_img read more

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Odion Ighalo gives Watford much-needed win over below-par Swansea

first_img Ighalo, who committed his future to the newly-promoted side by agreeing a five-year contract on Friday, calmly converted from six yards in the second half to secure Watford’s first league win of the season. Valon Behrami was sent off for a reckless stamp on Andre Ayew after 64 minutes, but a below-par Swansea never threatened to equalise and the Hornets held on for a much-needed victory. Press Association Odion Ighalo scored Watford’s first goal since the opening day of the season to claim a 1-0 victory against Swansea at Vicarage Road. Victor Ibarbo, who arrived on a season-long loan from Roma on deadline day, received international clearance and was named on the Watford bench by Quique Sanchez Flores. Swansea manager Garry Monk fielded his strongest side with Jonjo Shelvey, fresh from his England call-up, marshalling the midfield, and Wayne Routledge preferred to Jefferson Montero. The first real chance of the match fell to the hosts with 10 minutes gone when Ikechi Anya’s cross from the left landed at the feet of Sebastian Prodl. But, from the edge of the Swansea area, his half-volley went narrowly over the bar. Eight minutes later and Watford were on the attack again. This time Almen Abdi took aim at goal, but his effort clipped off the heels of Neil Taylor and went out for a corner. Incredibly the Hornets were still awaiting their first shot on target in over two games. And it was in fact the visitors who would be the first to bring a goalkeeper into action. Bafetimbi Gomis, scorer of nine goals in his last 10 Premier League outings, turned and shot from the edge of the penalty area to bring a fine save from Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal. Ikechi Anya was then caught dallying on the ball near his own corner flag. Ayew stole possession and he found Gomis, who had fallen to the floor, but his improvised effort went straight into the hands of a thankful Gomes. And then with the interval approaching, it came, Watford’s first shot on target in nearly two and a half matches. Ighalo wriggled in from the left-hand side, but his effort was saved by the feet of Lukas Fabianski. The half-time whistle at a sun-drenched Vicarage Road blew and the score was goalless. With the hour mark approaching a largely tepid affair then suddenly burst into life. Ighalo drove into the penalty box but his effort was wide of Fabianski’s goal. Moments later came the breakthrough and with it a little bit of history. A long punt down field from Gomes was headed down by Troy Deeney and, unmarked, six yards out, Ighalo calmly sidefooted past Fabianski. It was the least the hosts deserved and Vicarage Road erupted. But with the Watford fans still celebrating their first home goal in the Premier League this season, they were stunned into silence as Behrami was shown a straight red card for a stamp on Ayew above the knee. With the extra man Swansea would have been expected to up the ante, but Monk’s side barely called Gomes into action and it was Watford who had the best of the remaining chances with Fabianski forced into a late double save in the closing stages. TWEET OF THE MATCH “7 minutes” – England cricketer Steven Finn has a long wait in stoppage time before he can celebrate Watford’s big win. PLAYER RATINGS Watford Heurelho Gomes 7 (out of 10) Allan Nyom 7 Sebastian Prodl 7 Jose Manuel Jurado 5 Valon Behrami 5 Troy Deeney 7 Craig Cathcart 6 Ikechi Anya 6 Almen Abdi 6 Odion Ighalo 8 Etienne Capoue 7 Subs Ben Watson 6 Steven Berghuis 5 Alessandro Diamanti 5 Swansea Lukasz Fabianski 6 Neil Taylor 6 Ashley Williams 6 Jonjo Shelvey 6 Andre Ayew 6 Wayne Routledge 5 Bafetimbi Gomis 6 Gylfi Sigurdsson 5 Jack Cork 5 Kyle Naughton 6 Federico Fernandez 6 Subs Jefferson Montero 5 Ki Sung-Yeung 5 Eder 5 STAR MAN Odion Ighalo was a constant thorn in Swansea’s arm all afternoon and his goal was no more than he deserved. It capped a strong 24 hours for the Nigerian who signed a five-year contract on Friday. MOMENT OF THE MATCH It has to be Watford’s first effort on goal in some 221 minutes of Premier League action. Ighalo will take the plaudits after he bundled his way into the Swansea penalty area – but his effort was comfortably stopped by Lukasz Fabianski. The best was, however yet to come. VIEW FROM THE BENCH Swansea had been unbeaten heading into Saturday’s match, but Garry Monk’s side were woefully off the pace here and Watford’s victory was richly deserved. MOAN OF THE MATCH Bafetimbi Gomis may be in fine goal-scoring fettle, but the 30-year-old French striker was flagged offside on three occasions inside a 10-minute spell in the first half. It summed up a disappointing day Gomis and for the visiting side. WHO’S UP NEXT Newcastle v Watford (Premier League, September 19) Swansea v Everton (Premier League, September 19) last_img read more

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