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Health Insurance Ranks High for Female Business Owners

Benefits: Most in California put coverage at top of the list for employees, a survey finds, and about 77% of them offer it.


Nearly three-quarters of female business owners in California see health insurance as the most important benefit employers can provide their workers, and a significant majority vow to maintain employee health coverage even if costs rise sharply, according to a survey to be released today.

About 77% of female business owners surveyed offer health benefits to their employees, the Los Angeles chapter of the National Assn. of Women Business Owners found after querying 300 female entrepreneurs across California earlier this year.

That percentage stands in contrast to 48% of all California businesses that the Kaiser Foundation found provided some form of employee health benefits in a 1999 study.

"Women business owners employ one out of every four workers in [California] . . . so this commitment has a tremendous impact on the well-being of the state," said Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, president of NAWBO-LA and head of a local executive search company.

The study was a joint effort of NAWBO-LA, which provides business support services to 360,000 female business owners in Los Angeles County, and managed care company WellPoint Health Networks Inc.

The survey asked respondents to name the most important benefit employers can provide: 74.7% said health insurance, 10.7% said a retirement plan and 8.3% said vacation time. Flex time and profit-sharing picked up 2.7% and 2%, respectively.

The survey also found that nearly 70% of female business owners believe that the cost of health care will increase considerably within the next five years. Yet at the same time, 64% indicated they would take "significant action" to continue offering health benefits even if costs became prohibitive.

Among those actions, 31.7% said they'd cut other benefits, 19% said they'd cut their own salary, 6% said they'd lay off employees and 4.3% said they'd cut employee salaries. One-quarter of respondents said they'd drop all health benefits.

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