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In The Public Interest: Congress - Stand with Small Business, Support Health Reform

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While much attention has been focused on this year's health reform debate, there has been startlingly little of that attention paid to the plight of America's small business owners, like Miriam Malkovsky, owner of the Bombay International boutique in South Bend, Indiana. These businesses and their employees, as well as their owners and their families are on the front line of America's health care crisis.

Below, I share with you an op-ed from Miriam that was recently published in the South Bend Tribune in South Bend, Indiana. With critical House and Senate votes approaching, it is vital that voices like Miriam's are heard above the drumbeat coming from the lobbying onslaught bought and paid for by powerful interests.

That's why U.S. PIRG, Consumers Union, Small Business Majority, and Main Street Alliance have joined forces to fly in over 100 owners of small businesses to Washington this Tuesday. They will meet with U.S. Senators and with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and they'll discuss health reform legislation with their own members of Congress. Here's hoping that the House and Senate listen to them.

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If I ran my business like health care ...

By MARIAM MALKOVSKY

I am the owner of Bombay International in South Bend. I am proud to live and work in South Bend.

As a small business owner, I do everything possible to run my business efficiently and to keep my own costs as low as possible. I do this because I think it is important to give my customers the best product for the price.

It is unfortunate that the health care industry doesn't run itself this way. In fact, the health care system is filled with waste and inefficiency that drives up the cost of health care for everyone. So much so, that not everyone can afford care.

My scarves cost between $19 and $24. I have not raised my prices since I opened the store 10 years ago. According to a recent U.S. Public Interest Research Groups report, premiums for Hoosiers have doubled in the past decade, and are on track to double in the next eight years. If I ran my small business like health care, I would be charging $14 to $18 dollars more today than last year, and would charge between $61 and $78 for the scarves by 2017.

I do much of the bookkeeping to keep my finances in order. Last year, some health insurance companies increased their administrative costs four times the rate of inflation. If I ran my business like health care, I'd go out and hire four bookkeepers regardless of whether or not I really needed them, and pass those increased costs on to my customers.

All of the items in my store have stickers and bar codes to indicate the price. Most other small businesses in Indiana do the same. Most hospitals, however, rarely post their prices, making it impossible to see if hospitals are charging a fair price and actually competing in the market.

Because time is money, I try to keep paperwork at a minimum. Don't do the same thing twice if you can only do it once. My dealings with health insurance companies make me wonder if their motto is "don't do the same thing twice if you can make someone do it four times!"

We need to get serious about health care reform -- in particular about making the system more efficient and delivering higher quality care at fair and affordable prices for consumers. We need to streamline administrative waste, ensure that doctors have access to the most up-to-date information about the treatments that work best, prohibit insurance companies from denying people with pre-existing conditions and create real competition with a public option.

I hold my business to a high standard of efficiency. Shouldn't we hold the health care system to that standard, too?

Mariam Malkovsky is a South Bend resident. Ashley Fisher, U.S. Public Interest Research Groups field associate, assisted Malkovsky in writin