Tools, Tips and Studies: Health Care Heats Up, Snail Mail Slows Down

The small business community continues its push on health care reform. The National Small Business Association has launched Health Reform Today along with new data on the small business community and its difficult relationship with affording decent health insurance. Group President Todd McCracken said the number of small business owners who are able to provide health insurance to employees dropped from 67 percent in 1995 to 38 percent in 2008. In other health news, the House Small Business Committee held a hearing last week on health care issues. Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) said: "The needs of small firms and small medical practices are different from those of big companies, and it is critical that we not push forward with one-size-fits-all reform."

Other lawmakers last week introduced a bill (H.R. 1470) that would eliminate language in the tax code requiring millions of self-employed individuals to pay additional taxes on the cost of their health insurance. Corporations currently can deduct the cost of health insurance premiums as a business expense. The self-employed cannot, resulting in an additional 15.3 percent tax on their health insurance premiums. During a conference call promoting the legislation, one expert said that 60 percent of the uninsured in the United States come from families in which the head of household is either a sole proprietor or runs a small business.

The National Federation of Independent Business recently released research testing various legislation approaches for healthcare reform and measured how each approach would affect different constituencies. Researchers Stephen Rassenti and Carl Johnston built an insurance market in a laboratory and measured the outcomes on small businesses, large businesses and employees. The findings suggested that there is no panacea for health reform and that a "one-size-fits-all" solution will not work for both small and large businesses. Examples the group tested include mandating employers to provide coverage or mandating individuals to purchase coverage. The study is available from NFIB .

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Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship, sent a letter to Postmaster General John Potter urging him to consider the impact on small businesses of his proposal to reduce the postal service's delivery week from six days to five. "America's small businesses depend on reliable and consistent service from the USPS, and they could suffer significant setbacks by a shortened mail delivery week, such as lost sales, order backlogs, and job cuts," said Snowe.

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The Small Business Administration's Business Gateway Program has launched a new online community specifically geared to small businesses. It's an extension of Business.gov, aiming to provide small business owners, bloggers and the government with a forum to discuss and share information about starting and operating a successful small firm.

A new report from the National Women's Business Council outlines current policy priorities of women business owners. "Current Priorities and Challenges of Women Business Owners" features policy recommendations of women business owners who participated in the council's six town hall meetings in 2007 and 2008. The report highlights the importance of government-funded resources and technical assistance programs for small and women-owned businesses as more Americans turn to entrepreneurship and business ownership in a difficult job market.

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Intuit recently reissued a survey it first conducted in August 2008 and found that small business concerns have changed. The company queried 250 accountants and 250 small firms based in the United States about challenges they face in growing their businesses. This time around, the number one thing that keeps business owners up at night is paying their bills. Previously they were most concerned about "finding time to develop and run a business."

Separately, Intuit also announced that it has extended its Small Business United grant competition until Apr. 24. The company is offering $30,000 in business grants.

By Sharon McLoone |  March 25, 2009; 10:01 AM ET Data Points , Tools and Tips
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