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Washington Watch - September 16, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NASE, Self-Employed Comment On Pres. Obama's Health Care Speech

President Barack Obama delivered a prescription for health care that left some in the self-employed community wondering just where they fit in the plan. While the speech elaborated on current proposals the President wants in a final reform package, he did not address a number of key concerns for micro-business owners (those with 10 or fewer employees).

“While I am pleased that the President has decided to take a more active role on health reform and referee the players on Capitol Hill, ultimately we all know that the devil is in the details,” remarked Kristie Arslan, executive director of the NASE. “If the President is going to hold fast to the current proposals -- some good, some bad -- on the table and not offer any new ideas, then we need to know his opinion on the details and how it differs from that of Congress.”

The NASE supports a few specific reform proposals that will provide enormous relief for self-employed business owners. After Pres. Obama’s speech, the self-employed weighed in with their reactions:

“My concerns remain the same: Is there a possibility that my premiums may actually increase because I can no longer purchase the kind of coverage I currently have,” wondered graphic designer Alyssa Turk of Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Regardless of how you cut it, the government will be much more involved in the health care choices of those who purchase health care privately. This is what I am opposed to. I am happy to be responsible and have health insurance; I simply don't trust the government to determine my plan.”

“As small-business owners, I see most of us just taking the 8% penalty for not insuring our employees and letting our employees just use the government option,” said Chris Humphrey, a photographer from Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It's sad but true. I can't afford a massive hike in health care rates and I know most other small businesses can't either. Let the free market work and let the insurance companies compete across state lines.”

Read Kristie Arslan’s entire commentary on the NASE Staff Blog.

Read the full text of President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.

See the "Small Biz Health Care Roundup," below, for updates on health care efforts post-speech.


Financial System Overhaul Still Needed, Obama Says

With the upcoming anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., President Obama traveled to New York to address Wall Street about his proposed financial sector overhaul. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008, sparking a market crash and, subsequently, a $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the crumbling financial industry.

"We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses," the president said. "Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall."

Pres. Obama laid out three main principles of his new oversight system, which intends to increase protection of consumers and financial institutions:

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Agency will be formed to enforce guidelines and police the nation's financial sector.
  • The Agency will work to close loopholes that allowed the financial crisis to occur. This includes gaps that undercut the authority of regulators to take action and overlaps in these systems that allowed unaccountability for action. President Obama remarked that, while individual regulators were responsible for individual financial firms, there was no one to protect and oversee the larger system.
  • A continued worldwide response that would "promote recovery and... restore prosperity among both the world's largest economies and the world's fastest growing economies."

Click here to read the president's entire address, including more information on the proposed plan.


Small Businesses Should Prepare Now For Flu Season, Hearing Finds

The The House Committee on Small Business recently held a hearing to explore the potential impact of the H1N1 influenza on small businesses and investigate the resources available to small firms.

Representatives from various government agencies as well as small business owners shared recommendations and resources for helping small businesses deal with the possibility of a pandemic.

“To maintain critical operations, small businesses should be prepared to change business practices as needed during an outbreak,” Dr. Anne Schuchat testified on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services. “For instance, small businesses should prepare to identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some operations as needed.”

Government agency representatives recommended that small businesses should:

  • Implement flexible sick leave policies allowing workers to stay home to care for sick family members or children and encouraging sick workers to stay home, keeping in mind that workers will likely be absent for 3 to 5 days with the flu and should not return to work until free of fever or symptoms of fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication;
  • Take action to stop the spread of germs by encouraging frequent hand washing, the covering of coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve, frequently cleaning commonly touched surfaces, and considering spacing workers farther apart or work-from-home strategies;
  • And prepare for increased employee absences by cross-training employees and being prepared to change business practices if needed to maintain critical operations of the business.

Small Biz Health Care Roundup

Here's a sampling of this week's top health care reform articles in relation to small businesses:

 



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