August 6, 2004 -- A study published by the National Federation of Independent Businesses shows that the rising cost of health insurance is the number one problem keeping America's small-business owners up at night.

The study, conducted in collaboration with Wells Fargo, has been conducted every four years since 1982 by the NFIB. This year's study surveyed just over 4,600 small-business owners and found that more than 65% felt the cost of health insurance was a "critical" issue. The study continued by stating that "small businesses have struggled with double-digit increases in the cost of health insurance over each of the past four years." The top ranking marks the fifth consecutive time, since 1986, that health insurance costs have been listed as the number one problem for small-business owners in the NFIB survey.

CEOs said the cost and availability of liability insurance was the number-two problem for them - - up form the 13th problem in the 2000 survey. The survey suggested that the potentially devastating impact of litigation against a company was a primary reason for this increased ranking. According to the study, only 11% of business owners have actually been sued in the past five years, but the unpredictability and media coverage of such suits was a possible reason for the jump in rankings, according to the NFIB.

Some of the other problems showing significant increases in the rankings were problems with applications and or licenses, up from number 48 to 31, poor sales, from 50 to 33 and the cost of electricity, from 19 to number 10.

The survey also included some new entries to the field of 75, including increased national security procedures, which ranked third from last at number 72 and competition from Internet business next at number 73 out of 75. The newest problem weighing most on owners' minds came in at number six and involved complications with property taxes, for themselves personally or for their inventory.

For more information or to view the complete survey, visit the NFIB's homepage at