Small businesses are optimistic about their economic prospects for the coming year, thanks in part to Obamacare.

That's one of the key takeaways from US Bank's sixth annual survey of small business, released Monday. The bank conducted an online poll of 3,000 businesses with less than $10 million in annual revenue in January.

Eighteen percent of businesses said they thought the U.S. was still in a recession, about half the percentage that said so in 2014. Nearly two thirds said they thought the U.S. was in recovery, a 5 percentage point increase compared to 2014. And 10 percent of business owners said the economy was expanding, double the percentage that said so in 2014.

And suggesting good news for the Affordable Care Act, less than half of small-business owners now say they think the ACA will have a negative long-term impact on their businesses, down 13 percentage points from 2014. Twenty-five percent said they thought the new health care law would have a positive impact on business, up 4 percentage points compared to 2014. Nevertheless, the employer mandate requiring businesses with more than 50 to 100 employees to cover workers or face penalties will go into effect in 2016, and that may affect attitudes next year, says John Elmore, vice chairman of community banking and branch delivery for US Bank.

Twenty-five percent of business owners said they planned to add staff in the next 12 months, a 5 percentage point increase compared to 2014, and a nearly 10 percentage point increase compared to 2013. Slightly more than three quarters of business owners described their financial health as strong, a 6 percentage point increase compared to 2014, while just 4 percent described the health of their business as poor, a 2 percentage point drop compared to 2014.

However, in what could potentially suggest further signs of weak bank lending, fewer businesses are borrowing money to fund operations. Eight percent said they have borrowed money in the prior six months, compared to 13 percent in 2014, while 86 percent said they had not borrowed money at all, flat from the prior year.

Although numerous studies suggest that banks have pulled back on small-business lending to pursue more lucrative, high value commercial loans in excess of $1 million, Elmore says he thinks more businesses are actually funding operations from cash flow.

"Three out of four businesses say they are financially strong, and that means they are sitting on more cash today than they have been over the last few years," Elmore says.

The biggest challenges that small-business owners noted in the year ahead are competition from larger businesses, noted by 16 percent of respondents, and the cost of labor, mentioned by 9 percent of business owners.