Rising healthcare costs are among small business owners' top concerns, according to two recent studies. One, the, "Small Business Health-Care Survey," conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Foundation, identified cost as the single most important problem facing small business owners.
In addition, the state of the current U.S. healthcare system remains a primary concern for small business owners, according to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. In that study, nearly nine out of 10 small business owners surveyed, said the current healthcare system is in need of change, and six out of 10, said "a complete overhaul" is in order.
"Once again, small business owners overwhelmingly voiced the need for Congress to address ever rising health insurance costs," said William Dennis, senior research fellow for the NFIB foundation. "A difference in priorities appears between Congress and America's small business owners."
"One is primarily interested in coverage and the other cost," he explained. "If lawmakers can help reduce costs, small businesses could help increase coverage in the long run."
The new survey polled NFIB members, measuring the awareness, attitudes and beliefs of the small business community. Small business owners that responded to the survey indicated that they believe that prices should affect behavior with regard to healthcare. Seventy percent believe making consumers more aware of healthcare and health insurance costs will encourage them to become better healthcare consumers.
In addition, the small business owners indicated that they are wary of modifying the tax structure significantly even if it may ultimately work to their benefit. However, respondents do favor equalizing the tax structure for those obtaining health insurance, regardless of its source.
Following are some additional highlights of the NFIB study:
- 79 percent of those surveyed believe the overall quality of healthcare available to most Americans is "excellent" or "pretty good."
- 95 percent believe everyone who benefits from financial assistance for healthcare should be required to pay some portion of their healthcare or insurance.
- 57 percent indicate a preference for individuals above a reasonable income level to be required to have health insurance or be able to prove financial responsibility.
- 71 percent think all healthcare providers that expect reimbursement from insurers should be required to have computerized records.
"Lawmakers now have a real opportunity to act," said Todd Stottlemyer, NFIB's president and CEO. "This issue cannot be solved with a one size fits all approach. What works for big business will not work for small and independent businesses, and we intend to continue to remind Congress of that. As our country continues to thrive on the jobs created by our entrepreneurs, it's time Congress takes action to address this mounting problem that will, inevitably, diminish growth if it continues to go unaddressed."
According to the Wells Fargo/Gallup survey, small business owners believe health insurance can help attract and retain employees, but find the current system deeply flawed. Small business owners were asked what effect adequate health insurance has on a company's employees.
More than three quarters, 84 percent, agreed that adequate coverage attracts the best qualified employees. Nearly the same amount of respondents, 81 percent, agreed that it improves employee loyalty, and 83 percent believe it reduces an employee's likelihood to leave a company.
The Index found that over half of small business owners, 55 percent, do not offer any health insurance to their employees, citing high cost as the number one reason, according to 45 percent of survey respondents. Of these business owners, 55 percent said they would be "more likely" to offer such benefits if the federal government provided some financial incentives for this coverage.
"The majority of small business owners recognize the benefits of offering affordable healthcare coverage to their employees, but many feel they cannot afford to do so," said Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, executive vice president and head of Wells Fargo's small business segment. "A third of small business owners are cutting back on non capital investments so they can provide healthcare for their employees. For several years health insurance has been a major concern for small business owners, and its impact is significant," she concluded.
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