With Congress debating how to reform America’s health care system, a new survey report reveals that Tennessee’s small business owners, including the self-employed, are struggling to afford healthcare coverage and have strong opinions on how health reform should be shaped. The report – “American Health Care Reform: Serious Business for Tennessee’s Small Businesses” – illustrates small business owners’ concerns and preferences for reform.
“This study provides new insight into the opinions of small business owners across Tennessee and shows their preferences for health care reform issues,” says Craig Anne Heflinger, professor of human and organizational development in Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development and a coauthor of the report.
Key findings from the report include:
- 79% report they are “really struggling” to afford the cost of health coverage.
- 61% believe that reforming health care now is a step to getting the economy back on track
- 73% report everyone should have a choice between quality, affordable public and private plans
- 88% report that it will be a significant challenge in the future to offer health insurance coverage to employees
- 70% want more public oversight of private insurers
- 61% agree that the government should play a stronger role in guaranteeing access to quality, affordable health care.
“Historically, small businesses lead the way out of recessions. But they can’t perform this vital function for our economy when they’re paying, on average, 18 percent more in healthcare premiums than large corporations,” said John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, a national nonprofit organization that does extensive scientific research on small business owners’ perspectives on healthcare reform. “It will be almost impossible to provide relief to small businesses, and in the process dig our way out of this recession, without reforming the healthcare system first.”
Most Americans (59.3%) receive health insurance coverage through their employer. With the economic downturn taking a large toll on small businesses’ bottom line, many can’t afford to continue offering health insurance. Nashville small business owners Chris and Becky Link remain concerned that, if nothing is done, they will eventually have to drop all of their employees’ medical coverage due to rising costs. “We pride ourselves in taking care of our employees because we believe that it is the right things to do and because it helps us recruit and retain the best talent in Tennessee,” the couple said. “If we don’t see relief from ever-increasing health care costs it will be impossible for us to continue to provide health benefits.”
The report was released at a Nashville press conference that also served as the kickoff event for the Tennessee Small Business Coalition, a non-profit, non-partisan coalition that was formed to give a voice to small business owners who are adversely impacted by America’s current health care system. “Some kind of reform legislation is going to pass by the end of this year,” said report co-author Lori Smith of the Tennessee Small Business Coalition. “We don’t have time to waste, because the impact of that legislation on our businesses and ultimately on all Tennesseans will be determined by how much we voice our opinions and preferences to our leaders.”
The survey was conducted by Craig Anne Heflinger, Marielle Lise Lovecchio, and Jill Robinson, of the Peabody Center for Community Studies, and Lori Smith of Tennessee Small Business Coalition. The research was funded by the Small Business Majority and “Consumer Voices for Coverage,” a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Community Catalyst.
A copy of the report is available online at: