Small Businesses Speak Out on Healthcare

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There's been a lot of talk in the news about how important the small business community is to the economy as they are the source of 65 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. in the past 15 years. This week is set to be another important one for small businesses. Reuters says the Obama administration will hold a small business forum with lenders, lawmakers, regulators and business owners this Wednesday, November 18. The aim is to "define a new initiative to boost lending to smaller firms and help reverse U.S. job losses."

I usually try to leave the politics at the door in my small business VerticalResponse, but when I noticed just how often small businesses are being included in political debates, I decided to investigate more.

So we set up a quick survey to ask our customers what they think. We also partnered with the Small Business Development Center, which helped us to reach 831 small businesses across America.

For me, one of the most concerning things reported in this survey was the difference in healthcare offered by small business of various sizes. A whopping 71.8 percent of businesses with one to 10 employees do not offer healthcare to employees, versus the 69.4 percent of businesses with 11 to 100 employees who do offer healthcare to employees. Some people may not be surprised by that statistic, but that's no comfort to the small businesses that are currently unable to offer healthcare to their employees.

Seeing the huge disparity between small businesses on providing healthcare, you may think that we consistently saw differences reflected across all of our questions. This was definitely not the case. When we asked whether small businesses would cancel their current employer-provided coverage if given a public offering, only about 16 percent of respondents in both the one to 10, and 11 to 100 employee range said they would.

In the longer answer section, we saw that many of our customers chimed in with passionate opinions on this particular question. So we asked some of our local customers to elaborate on their survey results, and got two notable opposing views.

Theron Kabrich, CEO of San Francisco Art Exchange, had great reasons for supporting a public healthcare offering: "A public offering of healthcare unburdens small businesses and entrepreneurs alike, as it allows them to focus on core parts of their business such as innovations and new products. It also removes an unfair competitive advantage for small businesses when trying to attract the best employees, and levels the playing field."

However, Leslie Hennessy, owner of Hennessy's Wines and Spirits, was on the other side of the fence for this one: "I don't believe government-sponsored health care is a good thing for small businesses. Americans don't want socialized medicine, we want a free market."

Both of these VerticalResponse customers have between one and 10 employees, and completely different points of view. I'm not a policymaker, and I don't profess to have all of the answers. However, I think the large difference in opinions between small businesses of different employee sizes highlights the need for the current government to consider the diversity of the small business community when deciding on public policy.

Regardless of whatever new initiatives are decided in the small business forum on November 18, I am happy that small businesses are front and center in the ongoing political debates. I know I'll be watching them closely to see how VerticalResponse and our customers are affected. What are your feelings about healthcare? Please share your thoughts below.

Last updated: Nov 16, 2009




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