Rochester businesses unite to protest SB 110

Between 15 and 20 Rochester area business owners have banded together to protest Senate Bill 110 and what they see as its accompanying increases in health insurance premiums.

The business owners formed a group they call “STUNG,” which seeks to amend or abolish the bill, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat. The effort is being led by Joanne Spurling, who heads Spurling Insurance, and former Rochester Mayor Harvey Bernier.

Bernier owns Bernier Insurance on Wakefield Street, and told Foster’s he was compelled to take up the cause after his business’ health insurance premiums went up 57 percent this year.

The intent of the bill — to bring more competition between health insurance providers to come to the state — was well-meant, but Bernier said the system used to set rates is unfair to small-business owners.

“The effort to set the new rating system, I think, was driven by some brokers who probably saw the dollar signs at the end of the road,” Bernier told the newspaper.

STUNG’s main goal, said Bernier, is to “try to make the governor and political establishment aware of the difficult aspects of this bill.”

SB 110 bars the use of community rating to determine insurance premiums, allowing insurers to use age, medical conditions and other factors in figuring each business’ rates. The law covers businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

Opponents say the law allows insurers to “cherry-pick” for customers, meaning the firms can choose who they wanted to insure, leaving those who are at high risk to pay more for insurance.

“We think people should know the governor is taking the stance of, ‘give this thing some time.’ The fact is, there is new competition coming here because they’re increasing the prices. They’re picking the cream of the crop,” said Bernier.

When businesses join STUNG, they are sent forms suggesting ways to improve the law, contact information for the governor and legislators and a section called “Questions To Ask Your Representatives.”

Walter Hoerman, who runs Lilac City Pediatrics and is a former Rochester mayor, said his health insurance premiums have increased 39.5 percent under SB 110.

“It’s been going up every year, but never like this,” said Hoerman. “This bill allowed health insurance companies to really stick it to us.”

While his business doesn’t typically sell health insurance, Bernier said he understands the irony of two insurance providers leading the charge against a law intended to help insurers.

“I hate to say this, because I’m in insurance, but they’ve given the insurance companies a license to charge what they want,” said Bernier.

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