NASE on Micro-Business

Posts Tagged ‘affordability

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.

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.

Since health care reform has risen to the top of the priority list for the Obama Administration and Congress, I spend a lot of my time trying to insert the self-employed perspective into this debate.  I will tell you that often this is not an easy task.  As of late I have been asked quite a bit about the National Association for the Self-Employed’s perspective on mandates. Congress has been batting around the idea of including in a health reform bill an employer mandate, requiring employers to provide and share in the cost of health insurance for their employees, and/or an individual mandate, requiring all individuals to purchase health coverage.  This idea received significant traction when major insurers announced they would support some key market reforms in exchange for the inclusion of an individual mandate.  This week, the fervor around mandates was kicked up a notch when President Obama indicated in an open letter to key Senators that he is amenable, with a few exemptions, to proposals for “shared responsibility — making every American responsible for having health insurance coverage, and asking that employers share in the cost.”

According to a June 2008 study by the NASE, only 18% of micro-business owners (10 or less employees) in our nation are currently providing health coverage to their employees.   Thus, the majority of the self-employed are purchasing health coverage in the individual market.  The biggest concern amongst the self-employed and micro-business is affordability of health coverage.   In addition, micro-business owners with employees also worry about the administrative burden of managing health care for their workers.  This segment of the business population believe that if reform proposals don’t include adequate cost containment measures or financial assistance such as health tax credits yet include a mandate requiring all to obtain coverage, they will be worse off than they are now.  And with the economy struggling as it is, forcing the self-employed to purchase coverage or provide coverage to their workers could mean the difference between staying in business or closing their doors.  Therefore, NASE members do not support mandating coverage at the present time.

According to the recently released 2008 Employee Benefits study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the cost to small businesses of providing employee benefits increased significantly from 2006 to 2007 (the last year for which data is available).

Health insurance costs averaged $4,559 per employee in 2007 from $3,961 in 2006, an increase of 15 percent.  Costs of retirement and savings benefits increased 14 percent from 2006 to 2007, with the average cost per employee rising from $2,356 to $2,694.

Have you had to cut back on these or other benefits for you employees?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Hat tip: Independent Street

The House Committee on Small Business recently held a hearing on health care reform proposals and their effect on small businesses.  Among a panel of witnesses was the NASE’s own Senior Health Advisor, Mike Beene. 

Beene testified that many of the self-employed are scaling back health coverage or dropping coverage completely in order to keep their business open or pay for basic needs like their home and utilities. 

24-hsbc-mike-beene-testimony-0051

Even though he was battling a cold, Mike made sure that the Committee heard the NASE’s recommendations on how to make health care more affordable for micro-businesses.  The NASE’s proposals for increasing affordability included: a self-employment tax deduction on health insurance, allowing access to Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) for the self-employed, and the introduction of health tax credits. 

To watch Mike’s testimony before the Committee, click here.
Read the NASE’s press release on Mike’s testimony here.


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