Small Businesses Could Have Major Influence On Next President's Health Care Plan

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The Los Angeles Timeslast month examined how the "verdict of small business ownerscould lift or sink the next president's health care reform plan."Small businesses are "at the core of both the policy problem andthe thorniest political challenge" to reducing the number ofuninsured U.S. residents, the Times reports.

Whilemost large employers offer coverage, many small companies find thecost prohibitive. Nearly two-thirds of the working uninsured andabout 40% of all U.S. workers are employed by companies with fewerthan 100 employees, the Times reports. "So in termsof policymaking, it will be almost impossible to reduce the number ofuninsured substantially without involving those who work for smallfirms," according to the Times.

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Smallbusinesses traditionally have been "a solid GOP constituency,"but they are "being wooed by the Democratic candidates, who areoffering to tweak their health care plans to make them moreappealing," according to the Times. However, theTimes reports that small businesses "are a powerfullobbying force, and winning their support for significant changes maynot be easy." Denny Dennis, research director for the NationalFederation of Independent Businesses, said, "Thepoliticians' problem is coverage. Ours is cost," adding, "Ifthey can't help us with cost, how can we help them with coverage?"

Asurvey by the federation showed that 9% of its 350,000 members saidexpanding coverage was the most important issue related to healthcare, while 74% named health care costs as the most important issue.The survey also found that 57% of federation members said they wouldsupport an individual health insurance mandate, while 40% said theywould oppose it. An individual coverage mandate "is acornerstone of universal coverage plans" proposed by Democraticcandidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former Sen. JohnEdwards (N.C.).

Robert Blendon, a professor of health policyand political analysis at the HarvardSchool of Public Health, said, "The individual mandate isattractive in that it sounds like it could get their employeescoverage, and it wouldn't require (employers) to contribute verymuch" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times,12/23/07).

Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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