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Washington Watch - June 24, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Micro-Businesses Offer Strong Opinions On Health Reform Proposals

The nation’s entrepreneurs are ready for major changes to the American health care system, but are asking the federal government to implement various proposals to help them cope with the costs. When asked for the most important component of health reform, 60 percent of micro-business owners cited cost containment, even over access and choice. Nearly 2,000 micro-businesses, including members of the National Association for the Self-Employed, took part in this national online survey of their opinions on current health care reform proposals.

Most micro-businesses, companies with 10 or fewer employees, are closely following the health care debate. 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.”

Most entrepreneurs are strongly opposed to a “public option.” Rather, they prefer a free market approach, wherein business owners can work with private insurance carriers instead of purchasing a federally managed plan. Seventy-one percent said that they would choose a private insurer when given the choice to purchase the exact same health insurance policy at the exact same price from either a private insurer or the federal government.

View full survey results online.


Small Biz Health Care Roundup

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:

House Unveils Health Bill, Minus Key Details (NY Times)
House Democrats… answered President Obama’s call for a sweeping overhaul of the health care system, unveiling a bill that they said would cover 95 percent of Americans. But they said they did not know how much it would cost and had not decided how to pay for it.

Obama Initiatives Hit Speed Bumps On Capitol Hill (Washington Post)
Bill is too pricey, opponents say.

Health care costs choking small businesses (CNN.com)
Maryland auto shop owner Brian England offers health care coverage to his 18 employees, including part-time staff. He calls it "the right thing to do," and besides, he knows taking care of his employees makes good business sense. But every year his insurance premium costs rise another 10 or 20 percent, and England worries about the day when the fees will overwhelm him. After payroll and rent, health care is his largest business expense.

Senate Finance and HELP: Two Very Different Animals(Roll Call)
Industry lobbyists regard the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as the more liberal panel whose bill is largely a reflection of more left-leaning, less business-friendly priorities. It is the Finance Committee — where Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have a good rapport — where lobbyists say they are turning to broker deals on some of the most complex and controversial aspects of reform. And while they aren’t ignoring HELP, lobbyists expect Finance to hold the upper hand when, or if, the two bills should merge into one.

House Health Care Package Plays to Liberals’ Demands (Roll Call)
The massive health care draft released by House Democratic chairmen Friday gave liberals new reason to hope that a dramatic overhaul could still emerge this year — and Republican critics a big new target to shoot at. Committees will begin hearings on the bill this week, and numerous changes are expected before the bill hits the floor next month. But the basic structure seems likely to survive the House intact, including a robust new Medicare-like public health plan that would compete with private companies in a national health insurance exchange. The plan would also reward businesses and individuals if they buy insurance and tax them if they don’t. And insurance companies would no longer be able to exclude the sick.

Obama praises drug industry deal to cut costs for elderly (CNN.com)
President Obama on Monday strongly praised a decision by the nation's pharmaceutical industry to agree to a deal cutting drug costs for elderly Americans, calling it an example of the kind of compromise required for successful national health care reform.


Obama Administration Announces Sweeping Market Reforms

As nine financial institutions, including J. P. Morgan Chase and Capital One Financial, repaid federal loans, President Obama announced a reform initiative to address the root of the recent market crisis. The plan will give greater latitude to the Federal Reserve to oversee any firm seen as a "significant risk" to the financial system, create the Consumer Financial Protection Agency with the aim of policing the credit, savings, and payment markets on behalf of individuals, as well as other changes.

Check WhiteHouse.gov for more detailed fact sheets on the initiative.

For a breakdown of the proposed reforms, the issues each addresses and critics' responses, visit The Washington Post online.


Small Business Legislation Update

The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship voted to provide additional outreach support for programs that aim to help high-tech micro-businesses through modernization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. SBIR works to give small firms greater access to federal contracting opportunities. STTR creates partnerships between small businesses and research companies, institutions and non-profit organizations.

The legislation would provide support for the SBIR and STTR programs through 2023. Another bill would fund support programs for women, veterans and American Indians.

For more information on the measure circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives, visit last week's version of Washington Watch here.

 



Lawmakers and media outlets across the country rely on and regularly cite the NASE as a source of small and micro-business expertise. Help the NASE make sure the micro-business perspective is heard by taking this month’s poll.

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Washington Watch Online
Visit NASE Advocacy to view archived editions of Washington Watch. While you’re there, read the latest updates from the Washington, D.C. office, write your Congressperson, and find out how you can join the fight for micro-business.