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Small businesses put pressure on Christie to implement health insurance exchange

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Small-business owners gathered in Trenton today to put pressure on Gov. Chris Christie to implement a statewide health insurance exchange to help bring down the cost to employers of providing health care to their employees.

More than 200 business owners signed a letter urging the governor to implement the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the presidential election cycle to end. The letter was presented at the Statehouse by the Main Street Alliance, and several small-business owners spoke in a press conference.

Geetha Jayaraman owns the Spoon & Sprout Café, in Hillsborough, and makes Grab Em Snacks, a plantain-based alternative to potato chips. Jayaraman said she signed on with Main Street Alliance to support a health insurance exchange because small businesses need to be able to negotiate better prices, and more competition will open the market to more people interested in insurance.

Jayaraman and her husband have not had health insurance for two years, and cannot afford to hire more employees because of the inability to offer benefits. She said the price of health insurance is "crippling small businesses," and the costs of health care for the uninsured can also put strains on a family-run business.

"There is something wrong with this system," Jayaraman said. "The whole system … is almost like this is set up to hinder growth for the small businesses. Everybody wants to talk about growing small business, how do you support small businesses — then do something about it. This is what they're asking for."

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