George Carranzo has three part-time employees at his Grand Apizza. One’s on a state health plan, another is on a parent’s insurance policy, and the third is uninsured. Carranzo can’t afford to offer to insure them, or himself.
All that can now begin to change as a result of the passage of the historic health care reform legislation.
That was the message that 3rd District U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro brought to 20 people at a press conference convened at Carranzo’s tasty restaurant at East Pearl Street and Grand Avenue in Fair Haven Monday morning.
Carranzo himself, along with two daughters, are covered under his wife’s policy from her job. She’d like to get more involved in the pizza business, but with his younger child coping with two serious pre-existing conditions – cancer and autism – his wife can’t afford to leave her job. Carranzo one day would also like to hire a manager, but that would not be likely without offering insurance.
DeLauro said the health reform legislation has been badly demonized, so that many people don’t know how they can begin to benefit immediately from it. She called for a lot of public education on the matter.
That’s why she brought to Grand Apizza – please pronounce it “abeetz,” she began – a Yale student, a Bethany businessman, a woman with a pre-existing cancer condition, and a senior who is maxing out what she can afford to pay from her pension on medications. The aim: humanize the story of the bill’s benefits.
It’s part of a personal-story-focused public information campaign that DeLauro conceded was absolutely necessary. “We need to stop the fighting, the bickering, and to tell people what’s in the law,” she said.
For Carranzo and other small businesses struggle to insure their employees, there will be $40 billion of tax credits available immediately to make that easier, she said. Those credits will cover one third the cost of each employee this year, and then up to one half beginning in 2014.
That will affect 15,000 small businesses in the third district alone and 4 million nationally, she said.
In 2014, small businesses will also have access to the exchanges and to the far better larger group rates.
DeLauro was at pains to inform people how much kicks in now, how much in 2014, and what’s available to bridge the time.
For children like George’s eight-year-old daughter Marissa, who had an eye removed due to cancer at one year old and was also diagnosed with autism, there is immediately no longer denial due to pre-existing condition.
In 2014 denial of adults due to pre-existing condition will be illegal.
That cut close to home for Melissa Marottoli (pictured). She was misdiagnosed at age 24 with a ‘walking pneumonia” that turned out to be stage four lung cancer. She’s stabilized, but on long term chemotherapy. It renders her often tired and she’s unable to go to all the meetings in connection with her sales job.
Although her company is very good to her, she said one day she may want to leave or go out on her own. Even form her own party-giving business. Those are now possibilities, she said, because of the new legislation. “It releases a lot of worry, “she said.
Soon after the bill’s passage, she spoke to the congresswoman on the phone and said, “Rosa, I love you.”
DeLauro described herself as an ovarian cancer survivor. If she didn’t have her government job, who would have hired her? she asked rhetorically. With new legislation that is all different.
“Maternity care, C-sections, domestic violence,” she declared are now as a result of the legislation also not deniable as pre-existing conditions.
DeLauro described herself as deeply proud that “Women’s health is finally on an equal footing.”
Joe Bango, of the Connecticut Analytical Corporation in Bethany, said his small company’s rates had been hit with regular 10 to 15 percent premium increases a year by Anthem. “You want to hire additional people, but it’s prohibitive.”
In order to get better rates, Bango previously tried to join the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce to benefit from their larger pool, but it was denied because his company had some folks with pre-existing conditions.
That changes too, said DeLauro, as the bill does not allow premiums to be raised at the whim of the insurer without regulation. “We’ve lived in the world of the insurance companies too long. Now they need to live in ours,” she declared.
DeLauro said she is dedicating herself over the next months to finding “venues to get the word out” to small businesses.
That means sitting down with them, with calculators, and numbers, and showing them exactly how they could benefit.
Frank Alvarado, president of the New Haven Spanish-American Merchants Association, said up until now, many small businesses have not even thought about insuring employees because it was just too overwhelming, and what was needed was a kind of “health care for dummies.”
“I’m with you,” said DeLauro.