Plurality of Small Business Owners Want Healthcare Law Upheld; Only One-Third Want it Overturned

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Originally released June 14, 2012:

A plurality (50 percent) of small business owners want the healthcare reform law upheld—either as is or with minor changes—while only one-third want the Supreme Court to overturn it, according to opinion polling released today by Small Business Majority. However, after learning more about the law, a clear majority (56 percent) want it kept intact with, at most, only minor changes.

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision any day in the case against the Affordable Care Act, filed by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and state attorneys general. The polling of 800 small business owners in eight states (Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Texas and Virginia) found that once small business owners learn more about the law, their support for keeping it intact—either as is or with minor changes—rises to 56 percent, while opposition falls to just 28 percent.

Contrary to popular belief, small business owners do not want the high court to throw out the Affordable Care Act. They see this law as helping everyone have coverage and bringing down healthcare costs—something that has been one of their top concerns for years. We hope Supreme Court justices understand how important this law is to small businesses who need relief from high healthcare costs.

Key provisions of the law also have strong small business support, including one of the most crucial components for small businesses—the health insurance exchanges. The Affordable Care Act calls for exchanges—online marketplaces where small businesses can pool their buying power when purchasing coverage—to be up and running in every state by 2014. Sixty-six percent of owners say they would use their state exchange or consider using it to provide their employees with health benefits. The majority of entrepreneurs find potential features of the exchange very appealing, including employee choice (76 percent), the exchange educating employees about plans (74 percent), and the exchange providing plans that offer prevention and wellness programs (77 percent). Additionally, a strong majority (66 percent) of small businesses support their state applying for federal funds to set one up.

“Small businesses have been at the center of this lawsuit, and everything I hear is that they want it overturned. That’s not true for me, and it obviously isn’t true for the majority of my fellow entrepreneurs,” said Mark Hodesh, owner of Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor, Mich. “I sincerely hope our Supreme Court justices listen to what real small businesses are saying about this law, not what a select few are saying for us, and that they uphold it. Going back to the status quo would be unthinkable.”

Other key findings from the poll:

  • 55 percent of small businesses who support upholding the law believe it should be kept because we need to make sure everyone has health coverage; more than one-third say it’s because it will make it easier to purchase insurance
  • 72 percent support the medical loss ratio requirement, where insurers are required to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on healthcare claims and quality improvement efforts
  • 65 percent support “rate review,” where state regulators are allowed to review and approve or reject insurers’ increases they deem excessive
  • 78 percent support prohibiting insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions
  • 69 percent support preventing insurance companies from basing insurance rates on health status; 73 percent support preventing insurers from charging women higher rates than men
  • 69 percent favor allowing young people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plans
  • 55 percent of small business owners provide insurance to at least some of their employees, but of those who don’t offer it, 70 percent say it’s because they can’t afford it
  • Of small businesses who do offer benefits, respondents said the two most compelling reasons to offer were that they had a responsibility to offer (47 percent) and because it helps retain good employees (47 percent)
  • Of the small businesses who qualify for a tax credit under the law, but were not taking advantage of it, nearly half (46 percent) said they weren’t using it because they were not aware it existed
  • Nearly half of all small businesses (49 percent) said they’d be more likely to offer insurance if they qualified for a tax credit and the same percentage said they’d be more likely to purchase insurance through an exchange if they could receive a tax credit
  • 51 percent of small businesses are interested in establishing a workplace wellness program

To read the full report go online to http://www.smallbusinessmajority.org/small-business-research/healthcare/small-business-owners-views-on-aca.php

Tax Credit Report: 7 in 10 Small Businesses Eligible for Combined $15.4 Billion in Healthcare Tax Credits

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Originally featured in The Huffington Post:

Since the enactment of federal health care reform, hundreds of thousands of small business owners across the country have been able to claim a tax credit for offering their employees health benefits — and millions more are eligible, according to a report released today by advocacy group Small Business Majority and consumer group Families USA. For tax year 2011, seven in 10 small businesses with 25 or fewer employees are eligible for the credit.

But most striking is that the majority of entrepreneurs don’t even know this credit exists.

American small businesses employ millions of workers and create 65 percent of all net new jobs. They can be found in every pocket of the country, driving growth in metropolitan cities, suburban settings and rural towns. Small businesses hold an iconic position in the American consciousness — a position that sometimes makes it easy to forget how much they struggle to achieve that deserved recognition.

The reality is, most small businesses operate within thin profit margins. And that means they’re less likely than big businesses to be able to afford health coverage for their workers. It’s a decades-old problem that the Affordable Care Act was designed specifically to address. According to the report released today, more than 3.2 million small businesses employing 19.3 million Americans are eligible for the healthcare tax credit included in the law to help offset their premiums. Erica Hawthorne, the marketing manager for Ken Weinstein’s Philadelphia, Penn. Trolley Car Diner, is one of those 19.3 million.

Erica reports that Ken received a tax credit of 19 percent of his premiums, and that she has directly benefited. After being on an individual plan, Erica was able to gain better insurance when Ken decided to expand employee coverage after receiving the credit. “Offering employee health benefits has helped the business attract and retain staff,” Erica said. “When I was able to switch over to the group plan, I saw a significant change in my premiums. It really increased my take-home pay. From an employee perspective, offering health insurance adds to the entire package of any job. It’s mutually beneficial for a business and its employees.”

Entrepreneurs like Ken are using their tax credit savings to boost benefits, hire new workers and more. With $15.4 billion available for this year’s credits alone, eligible small business owners and their employees stand to reap big savings. That $15.4 billion amounts to an average of $800 per employee, or $1,066 at businesses that qualify for the maximum credit of 35 percent of their 2011 premium costs.

According to the report, two in five eligible businesses should qualify for the 35 percent maximum (which in 2014 will jump to 50 percent). Those who think they might be eligible should talk to their accountants, but to meet basic qualifications, owners must have fewer than 25 full-time employees and pay at least 50 percent of their premiums.

Unfortunately, not nearly as many employers who are eligible for this benefit have taken advantage of it. This is largely due to small business owners’ overall unfamiliarity with this provision of the Affordable Care Act. Our national opinion polling found 57 percent of small business owners have never heard of the tax credit. For the sake of these small businesses, it’s imperative lawmakers and small business groups spread the word about this and other provisions in the law that will help boost entrepreneurs’ bottom lines. These individuals — the cornerstone of state and local economies — are doing everything they can to build up their companies right when our nation needs it most.

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New Report: Tax Credits Could Help up to 3.2 Million Small Businesses Provide Health Coverage for Their 19 Million Workers

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Original statement issued May 9, 2012:

More than 19 million U.S. workers are employed by the 3.2 million small businesses eligible for $15 billion in tax credits in the federal healthcare reform, according to a new report released today. The tax credit helps small businesses pay for health coverage for their employees. A major obstacle to coverage, the report notes, is that many small business owners are unaware of these tax credits because of the noisy—and often misleading—debate over healthcare reform.

The tax credit program is outlined in a report released today by Small Business Majority and the consumer group Families USA. The report contains detailed information on the number of eligible employers and employees in each state whom the program could benefit. It also includes the total dollar amount of tax credits that could be provided to businesses in each state.

In general, businesses that offer health coverage and employ fewer than 25 full-time middle-class workers are now eligible to receive a tax credit of up to 35 percent of the cost of premiums for their workers. In 2014, the size of the credit will increase to cover up to half of the cost of health insurance provided to workers.

The tax credit was included in the Affordable Care Act to help the smallest businesses offer coverage—those who traditionally have the most difficult time doing so. In 2011, only 71 percent of small businesses with 10 to 24 workers offered coverage to their workers; among small businesses with fewer than 10 workers, only 48 percent offered coverage. By contrast, 99 percent of businesses with 200 or more workers offered coverage.

The following are among the key findings of the report, titled “Good Business Sense,” about small business employers. (The report itself also contains state-specific data.)

  • More than 3.2 million small businesses (70.1 percent of businesses with fewer than 25 workers) are eligible for tax credits to help with the cost of health insurance coverage for their workers for the 2011 tax year.
  • More than 1.3 million small businesses are eligible to receive the maximum tax credit when they file their 2011 taxes.
  • More than two in five (40.3 percent of) small businesses eligible for a tax credit are eligible to receive the maximum tax credit when they file their 2011 taxes.

The following are key report findings about U.S. workers. (The report itself also contains state specific data.)

  • Nearly 19.3 million Americans are employed by a small business that is eligible for a tax credit for 2011.
  • Of these workers, nearly 5.8 million are employed by a small business that is eligible for the maximum credit.
  • The total value of tax credits available to eligible small businesses for 2011 is more than $15.4 billion, an average of $800 per worker.
  • The total value of tax credits available to small businesses eligible for the maximum credit is more than $6.1 billion, an average of $1,066 per worker.

The report also contains state-specific data by race and ethnicity on the number of workers who can benefit from the tax credits. As the report makes clear, however, workers and employers can only begin to benefit when they become aware of the tax credit program.

Among small businesses with low-wage workers, the likelihood of offering coverage is even lower. As a result, lower-wage workers employed by small businesses are much more likely to be uninsured than other working Americans.

We know from our opinion polling that small businesses want to offer their employees coverage but many of them can’t afford it. The tax credits will make it easier for small businesses to offer coverage, which makes their businesses more competitive and boosts their ability to create jobs and drive economic growth.

“Small businesses seeking to provide health coverage for their employees have traditionally faced health insurance premiums that are significantly higher than those for large businesses,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. These high premiums are due to higher administrative costs and premiums per employee in the small group insurance market, he said.

“The tax credit program, a provision of the Affordable Care Act, now makes it possible for small business to compete with large employers,” Pollack said. “This is great news for these small companies, who can now offer health benefits when competing for talent in the job market. Just as importantly, it’s great for workers and their families who will now have access to affordable health care.”

“We also know from our polling that the majority of small businesses don’t know these credits exist to help them,” Arensmeyer said. “The best way to serve small business owners is to educate them about this provision so they can participate in and benefit from it.”

Families USA and Small Business Majority contracted with The Lewin Group to develop the estimates used in the report. The full report, “Good Business Sense: The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit in the Affordable Care Act,” is available at http://www.smallbusinessmajority.org/small-business-research/downloads/050912_Small_Business_Healthcare_Tax_Credit.pdf.

Opinion Polling Shows Small Business Owners Support Ending Government Subsidies to Oil and Gas Companies

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Original statement issued on March 29, 2012:

Small business owners strongly support ending government subsidies to gas and oil companies, with 73 percent agreeing tax breaks for oil and gas companies should be eliminated and 60 percent supporting the idea even if it means a small increase in gas prices, according to opinion polling released today by Small Business Majority.

The polling, which was conducted over the past week in six states (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia and Nevada), comes on the heels of a statement President Obama made in the White House Rose Garden Thursday urging Congress to end tax breaks to the largest oil companies. Despite this strong support, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would do just that in a 51-47 vote Thursday. The majority of senators stood with small businesses to end subsidies, however a 60-vote majority was needed to pass the bill.

Large oil and gas companies have been and continue to post record profits, while our primary job creators are struggling to stay afloat. Instead of providing tax breaks to these large firms we should be focusing on measures that will directly benefit small businesses competing in a modern, innovative, clean energy-based 21st Century economy. Lawmakers need to start listening to what small business owners are saying and act accordingly.

Additional findings include:

  • 41 percent strongly favor eliminating subsidies, while only 10 percent strongly oppose
  • 32 percent strongly favor eliminating subsidies even if it means an increase in gas prices, while only 18 percent strongly oppose

For more information on the poll, visit http://www.smallbusinessmajority.org/small-business-research/clean-energy/