MAKE THE ROAD NEW YORK
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Contact: Sara Cullinane 917-676-3210
Queens Cafe Owner to House Small Business Committee: "We’re Ready to Serve"
Jackson Heights immigrant small business owner to testify in Wednesday hearing on health reform
— On Wednesday afternoon, New York small business owner Freddy
Castiblanco will testify in the House Small Business Committee’s
hearing on "Common Ground: Finding Consensus on Health Reform, the
Small Business Perspective." Castiblanco, an immigrant from Colombia
and owner of La Terraza Café in the Jackson Heights/Elmhurst
neighborhood of Queens, will testify on behalf of New York’s Small
Business United for Health Care coalition – group spearheaded by Make
the Road New York – and on behalf of the national Main Street Alliance
"We’re all paying the cost of our broken health care system –
in unaffordable premiums for those who still have coverage, and in lost
employees, lower productivity and financial insecurity for those who
don’t," Castiblanco said. "I’ve lost some of my most talented employees
because I couldn’t provide health insurance."
Castiblanco has owned his business in Jackson Heights for
eight years since immigrating to this country from his native Colombia,
where he practiced as a physician. He started it in an abandoned
storefront, and has built La Terraza into a vibrant business with 11
employees. But affordable health coverage remains out of reach. "As my
business grew, I wanted to find health coverage for my employees and
their families. My hope was crushed when I consulted a broker and found
the premium for a decent benefits package would be over $700 a month…
for each employee. This would make health care the largest expense for
my business after wages – over eighteen percent of my payroll –
outweighing rent and any other operating expense."
As an employer, Castiblanco says he’s willing to pay his fair
share for good coverage for his employees. "Ask small businesses, do we
want good health insurance for our workers? Yes, we do," Castiblanco
said. "Do we feel a responsibility to help our employees afford health
care? Yes, we do. Are we willing to contribute? Yes." The Main Street
Alliance’s Taking the Pulse of Main Street report, based on a national
survey of 1,200 small business owners, found 73 percent of small
employers willing to contribute for health coverage for their
But small businesses need more choices, Castiblanco says, and
he supports giving businesses the choice of a public health insurance
plan as part of broader reform. "Let small business owners decide what
works for us: to keep what we’ve got if it’s working, or choose
something new – including a public plan – if we have no good options.
This will give us greater bargaining power and encourage competition
among insurers to make coverage affordable."
As key committees in the House and Senate begin to wrestle
with issues of how to make health coverage affordable, how to provide
more choices, and how to pay for reform, Castiblanco believes a
reasonable compromise is within reach. "Give us more choices, including
a public health insurance option to ignite competition, drive down
costs and make good coverage affordable, and you will find small
business owners on main streets across America not only willing to
contribute, but ready to serve."
Small Business United for Health Care is a project of Make the Road New York www.maketheroadny.org
and affiliated with the Main Street Alliance — a national network of
small business coalitions in a dozen states working with small business
owners advance health care that works for small businesses, our
employees and the economy.