Small businesses like mine have either reduced coverage year by year or dropped coverage on their employees. Health care becomes less affordable every year, and the insurance companies cover less and less. I’ve seen small businesses close their doors and owners go get a “real job” because they could no longer afford health insurance, or the insurance company had dropped them.

Hiring a new employee was always a risk. Laws prevent you from asking health questions of applicants. But if you hire someone, as I did, with diabetes, the insurance company can up the premiums on all the employees. Pre-existing conditions prevented our company from shopping for another insurer. Our annual premiums went up 10 to 17 percent every year but one. That was in addition to increases due to age increases.

I had written to the governor and the Illinois Department of Insurance asking for help. I had written to my senators several years ago and had little hope any help would be coming. Then there was a glimmer of hope that held my attention for the last year. I prayed that someone would see how close to disaster our small business owners and their employees were.

Those who want to start a business will no longer be stopped by a pre-existing condition. Mature employees and women will not be discriminated against because they will cost so much more to insure. Reform in its present form is not all I had hoped for, but it is enough to convince me that insurance for my family and my employees will not be out of my reach, or taken away because one of us gets sick.

I thank everyone who supported health care reform. You have one small business that will be staying open in Oak Park – mine.

Kathy Zaniolo
Oak Park resident, owner of PHS Locksmiths

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