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Washington Watch - June 3, 2009

Quick Look: Supreme Court Nominee Visits Capitol Hill

President Obama’s nominee for associate justice on the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, has begun meeting with Senators on Capitol Hill in preparation for the confirmation process. The meetings will serve as a preview of what she can expect during the Senate approval process in the coming weeks. During the confirmation hearings, the nominee will be asked to explain, defend and clarify her responses to a lengthy questionnaire from the Judiciary Committee.

Judge Sotomayor is currently a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York She was tapped by President Barack Obama in late May to replace Justice David Souter, who has announced his plans to retire. Sotomayor has ruled in many high-profile cases, including issuing the initial injunction to end the Major League Baseball strike in the mid-1990s. Read about Judge Sotomayor’s court rulings and more (New York Times).

Read about Judge Sotomayor’s court rulings and more (New York Times).

SBA Advocacy Office Releases Rankings of Small Business Lenders

The SBA's Office of Advocacy recently released the latest edition of their annual study on lending to small firms. The study found that for the year ending in June 2008, the rates of small business and micro-business lending were down from the previous one-year period, but were still in positive territory. The largest increase was in the number of microloans (loans under $100,000), which increased by 15.7 percent. The report states that this may be an indication that more loans are being made through business credit cards.

In the introduction to the study, authors noted that access to credit is vital to small business survival, “and nearly 60.4 percent of all small firms borrow from a traditional source such as loans/capital leases and credit lines; slightly more than two-thirds obtain credit from the banking sector.”  

This edition of the annual study includes data on banks, as well as other depository institutions like federal and state savings banks and savings and loan associations, and also offers expanded geographic coverage of U.S. territories.

For the one-year period ending in June 2008, the total value of small business loans (under $1 million) increased 4 percent, and the value of microloans (under $100,000) increased 6.8 percent. The study includes helpful information for small businesses, notably state-by-state rankings of the small business lending of banks and other depository institutions.

The full study, including data on the top institutions lending to small businesses in each state, can be accessed online at


Hidden Cycle of Fees Plague Health Care Industry
The “hidden health tax” is responsible for rising premium costs for businesses and individuals, according to a report released by Families USA, a health policy think tank. The “tax” occurs when doctors, hospitals and other care facilities must pass the cost of caring for uninsured on to those who have coverage.

According to the study, the uninsured received $116 billion worth of care from hospitals, doctors, and other providers in 2008. Costs shifted from the providers to insurers by way of higher charges for health services. Then, those charges shift to families and businesses in the form of higher premiums.

Other key findings include:

  • The uninsured paid for, on average, more than one-third (37 percent) of the total costs of the care they received out of their own pockets.
  • Third-party sources, such as government programs and charities, paid for another 26 percent of that care.
  • The remaining amount, approximately $42.7 billion in 2008, was unpaid and constituted uncompensated care.
  • For family health care coverage, the hidden health tax was $1,017.
  • For health coverage provided to single individuals, the hidden health tax was $368.


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