Small business owners bring concerns about healthcare coststo White House Office of Health Care Reform roundtable

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, April 13, 2009

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on April 24, 2009 Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Room 350 Adjacent to the West Wing, The White House, Washington, D.C. Small business co-owners available for media interviews

Sausalito, CA: Small business owners from across the country will present their views on the urgent need for healthcare reform at the White House on Friday, April 24. Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, will lead a roundtable discussion to learn more about the unique needs of small businesses as Congress works to reform US healthcare.

Passing healthcare reform this year is critical to the survival of small businesses, said John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that conducts scientific research to examine the views of small business owners on healthcare reform. These business owners are traveling to Washington, D.C. from around the country to explain the difficult scenarios they face as healthcare costs increase and the economic downturn continues.

Historically, small businesses have created 100% of the net new jobs at the beginning of an economic recovery, Arensmeyer explained. To empower these firms to play that role today, we absolutely must bring down healthcare costs and increase coverage, he said.

Chris and Becky Link, co-owners of Imagination Branding in Nashville, TN will tell their story at the event. They've been helping other businesses promote themselves for the past 20 years. They had built up their business to 52 employees until the recession hit, business dropped by about a third, and they had to reduce their staff to about 33 people.

Chris Link says the layoffs might not have been as severe if health insurance costs weren't such a financial burden on the company. "In the past six years premiums have gone up and what you get for that money goes down, he said. "We're doing our best to keep the coverage, but as things get tougher we have to start making some decisions about how much we can do. We believe there's a moral obligation to keep providing healthcare coverage to our employees, but at the same time it's very, very expensive."

Louise Hardaway of Nashville, who was forced by the cost of health insurance to close her business, will join Chris and Becky Link and small business owners from Maryland, Washington, New Jersey and other states. Hardaway and a partner launched their own business providing medical supplies and medicine for people with hemophilia. They then faced possible monthly healthcare premiums as high as $13,000, despite no serious medical problems among themselves or their families. "There's something wrong with this picture, this should not be legal," said Hardaway. "We couldn't find decent coverage at an affordable price and so had to give up the dream of having our own business in order to have an adequate health insurance plan."

Rising healthcare costs are small business owners biggest concern, outranking even the state of the economy, Arensmeyer said, citing a December 2008 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study. Research shows that two-thirds of small business owners support the concept of shared responsibility for funding the healthcare system, Arensmeyer said. They support a shared approach that includes government, business, individuals, and healthcare providers.

Firms with fewer than 500 employees constitute more than 99% of all US companies, Arensmeyer said. About 95% of those businesses have 100 or fewer employees, he said. These are the real job-creation engines in America, and they are especially important during this economic crisis. We're here at the table today because we are committed to finding solutions.

Small Business Majority conducts extensive scientific polling and research to determine small business owners' perspectives on healthcare reform and brings a nonpartisan voice to policy discussions nationwide. Based in Sausalito, CA with offices in Washington, DC and New York City, the organization works with business owners, healthcare experts, policy experts, and elected officials nationwide.