NASE on Micro-Business

Wondering why you haven’t seen a post here in a few days (or weeks)? It’s because we have officially moved “NASE on Micro-Business” from WordPress over to http://www.nase.org/About/StaffBlog.aspx.

You’ll find the same great stories by the same great staff (if I do say so myself!) giving the same great color commentary on all things NASE and micro-business.

So check us out at our new address!

From day one the Obama Administration has been touting that they were going to foster a different kind of government. Transparency, participation and communication were going to be front and center. As I work on health care reform however, it is evident that Congress unfortunately didn’t get the memo on this new citizen-friendly, collaborative process.

Recently, I spoke about the micro-business perspective on mandates at a briefing sponsored by the Coalition for Affordable Health Coverage. In my concluding remarks, I highlighted that our recent survey of micro-businesses showed that while they want government involvement in regulating the insurance market, they did not want the federal government to provide coverage. In other words, thumbs down for the public option. Needless to say, shoes almost started flying from some of the audience members and I received some heated comments during the question and answer period. Sadly, this was not the first time I have experienced this reaction when the topic of the public option is raised amongst its staunch supporters.

Now, I certainly don’t want to be a partisan complainer. I’ve had similar experiences with staff from the other side of the aisle when discussing additional health reform recommendations such as mandates and market reforms.

Aren’t we able to disagree respectfully? Shouldn’t all voices be heard, not just the ones that agree with you?What is so disheartening is that the self-employed and micro-businesses want reform. No, we NEED health care reform. In fact, we support almost every other reform recommendation out there – such as creation of an exchange or connector, cooperatives, market reforms like guaranteed issue and even mandates with the right mix of subsidies and cost containment mechanisms. Yet, it seems that all bets are off because we prefer to get our health insurance from a private insurer versus the federal government.

Maybe we can’t do it all when it comes to health reform, but there are options on the table that we all agree on that can really help our small business owners. A difference of opinion on one issue should not preclude collaborating and compromising on a reform approach. Yet the ire of both political parties is brewing and bubbling up regarding health reform, threatening to undermine any chance of providing micro-business owners and all Americans with access to meaningful, affordable coverage.

My outlook can be summed up in one word: disappointment. We were hoping for change, we were promised change yet it seems like all we are getting is more of the same from Congress.

The health care reform debate is constantly evolving.  Here are some of the week’s top health care headlines to help keep you up-to-date on what’s being said:

Healthcare Reform Debate Heats Up In The House (The Small Business Watchdog)
Power player, the House Ways and Means Committee, debates the idea of a public option.

Health reform FAQ: Cutting through the noise (CNN Money)
Confused about what health care reform would look like and how it would change your world? You’re not alone.

Little Known Info About the Self-Employed and Health Reform [Survey] (NASE on Micro-Business)

President Obama Comments on Self-Employed and Health Reform (ABC News)
His comments on the self-employed and health care reform start at the 4:00 mark of this video clip of the interview.

HHS Secretary Presses Congress on Health Care Reform, Rules Out Increased Deficit Spending (Fox News)
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told lawmakers Wednesday that President Barack Obama is willing to listen to suggestions on how to pay for a health care overhaul, as long as they don’t increase the deficit.

Bipartisan Health Bill Gets Cold Shoulder (Roll Call)
With President Barack Obama and lawmakers in both parties continuing to struggle for a bipartisan health care reform deal, sweeping legislation — pushed by a bipartisan Senate duo — that would fundamentally restructure the way Americans get their health insurance has been gathering dust.

Traveling for the long weekend? It’s not too late to save on your travel needs with help from the NASE.

Filed in one of our more fun benefits categories, the NASE group discounts can help you save on rental car discounts from Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise. Or, compare your hotel rate for this weekend against the savings you can get through NASE’s hotel savings program — 10% off Wyndham, Ramada, Baymont Inn hotels, and more!

The NASE can also help with more than just saving a few dollars on your travel needs — being there for you in an emergency while you travel.

Assist America and TelaDoc can be two of the most important benefits an NASE Member uses while traveling. Hopefully, you and your family will never need the services of either benefit. But if you get sick while away from home, these free benefits can save you time, money and worry.teladoc

TelaDoc physicians can diagnose medical problems, recommend treatment and prescribe medicine, all over the phone. If your child comes down with a sore throat, or you forgot to pack one of your prescription medications, just call the toll-free number and a TelaDoc doctor can help.

If you suffer a more serious medical emergency while traveling, Assist America can help. If you are traveling moassist americare than 100 miles from home and need medical consultation, emergency evacuation, care for your minor children or hospital admission guarantee, Assist America can arrange and pay for these services — all free to you as an NASE Member.

If you’re an NASE Member, log into the NASE Web site and write down the phone numbers for Assist America and TelaDoc — and put them in your luggage, car or purse before you go away this weekend. This simple act can save you more than time and money if you have an emergency — it’ll give you peace of mind that you’re taken care of.

When talking about those small, rectangular pieces of plastic you keep in your wallet, many people use these words interchangeably.  However, as this informative Small Business Trends article shows, these words can mean a big difference to you and your business.  Check out the considerations that author Adam Jusko outlines in the article to make sure you’re choosing the right card for you.

Hat tip: Small Business Trends

As I watched the news announcing the 150 year sentence for Bernie Madoff, the mastermind behind a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, my thoughts were focused on his victims. In this time of economic uncertainty, their nest eggs disappeared before their eyes and they will likely never receive full restitution. Like Madoff’s victims, the self-employed also experience a high level of uncertainty about whether they will achieve financial security to allow them to retire.

Close to 4o percent of micro-business owners are not at all confident or have little confidence that they will be able to save enough money to retire. The NASE also found in a 2007 survey that an overwhelming percentage – 8o% – do not offer retirement plans of any type for either owners or employees. The greatest barrier, reported by 62 percent of respondents, is the cost of administering and contributing to a retirement plan. More than one-third of micro-business owners acknowledged they were not saving for retirement at all.

The issue of financial security has increasingly become a growing concern for the self-employed due to our nation’s economic woes. The financial market’s meltdown coupled with the housing crisis has led to sharp declines in spending, leaving the self-employed with declining revenue yet increasing costs of doing business (i.e. health care). There is less and less money to put away for a rainy day.

With over three-quarters of micro-business owners indicating that they are relying on the federal government as their primary source for financing retirement, our policymakers must prioritize helping Americans, such as the self-employed, to save more for the future.   If they fail to do so, our government will be left footing a very large bill.

Every time we ask the self-employed to tell us what’s on their mind, they don’t disappoint. This week, I’ve been knee-deep in efforts surrounding the recent release of our survey on the health reform perspectives of the self-employed.

Here are some cool tidbits I learned from the results (print version):

  • The self-employed are following the health care debate like hawks. When asked how many had heard the term “public option” in relation to discussions surrounding reform, two-thirds indicated they were familiar with the term, and of those, 71 percent identified it correctly as “a health insurance program run by the government and open to anyone in need of health coverage.”
  • The top two health tax proposals favored by micro-businesses are providing tax credits to businesses and the self-employed to offset health care costs and reforming the tax treatment of health coverage so that, regardless of whether health insurance is purchased individually or accessed through an employer, the worker receives the same tax benefits.
  • The majority of respondents were neutral on a recent suggestion of a cap on the employer exclusion. However, there were quite a few who strongly opposed such a cap.

The above figures are cool – in the Public Affairs department, we LOVE having stats to pass along to media – but I always enjoyed being able to wade through individual responses. Our response system is completely anonymous, and even though I can’t “put a face” to each comment, reading them always gives me a better understanding of what people out in the “real world” are thinking. Many survey respondents gave specific comments on the public option, mandates and other issues impacting the health care reform conversation. Here are just a few examples:

I do not think the government should become an insurer. I do think the government should regulate private insurers more.

I do not agree with the government mandating how businesses should run. They have been unsuccessful with their own budgets. What qualifies them to stipulate this to successful businesses?

Employers should not provide coverage. Let individuals subscribe to whatever plan they want and let employees take home money to purchase insurance instead of the employer purchasing for it for them. Individual needs are different.

I do not think the government should be able to pick and choose the businesses that are required to carry health insurance for their workers.

I would prefer that the government not be involved in providing my health care. However, I also cannot continue to provide health insurance on my own through private insurers if they continue to increase premiums at the current rate. If I could not afford private insurance, I would hope that there would be some other option rather than no insurance. If that is a government policy, then so be it.

NASE Members: Do you have a comment to add about health reform or any of the topics mentioned above? I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a note below, drop us a line on Twitter (@NASEtweets or @koberlander) or visit our Facebook sites (Group and Fan pages) to weigh in.

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