Health Care Report Reveals Problems With Status Quo

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Congress, voters, and the President all continued to focus on the issue of health care reform this week, and a major player in the political debate -- the Obama administration -- issued a report on how the escalating costs of health care adversely affect small businesses.

The Obama administration report "Helping the Bottom Line: Health Reform and Small Business" points out how the "high cost of health care burdens small businesses, weakens our economy, and leaves millions of Americans without the affordable health care they need and deserve."

According to the study's findings:

  • A large fraction of uninsured workers are in small businesses: Nearly one-third of the uninsured -- 13 million people -- are employees of firms with fewer than 100 workers.

  • Fewer small businesses are offering insurance: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66 percent to 61 percent. Much of this drop stems from a decline in coverage for employees of small businesses. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68 percent to 59 percent, while large firms held stable at 99 percent.

  • Workers not offered coverage are at great risk: Approximately 50 percent of the workers in small firms that do not offer health benefits are uninsured. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse.

  • Reform is a top priority for small businesses: Nearly half of small business owners in a recent survey said that "making health care more affordable" is the idea Washington should address first. The National Small Business Association adds, "Relief from escalating health insurance premiums ... can only be achieved through a broad reform of the health care system with a goal of universal coverage, focus on individual responsibility and empowerment, the creation of the right market-based incentives, and a relentless focus on improving quality."

As part of ABA's efforts to represent the interests of independent booksellers regarding health care reform, ABA CEO Oren Teicher last week traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Topics of the discussion included affordable health care for independent booksellers, as well as sales tax fairness. "I was very pleased with this initial meeting," Teicher said. "It is clear that the committee and the Obama administration both understand the priorities of small businesses and take them very seriously. I believe that we have taken an important first step in ensuring that the concerns of independent booksellers regarding both health care and sales tax equity are heard in Washington."