Florida small business owners participating in a recent survey want large corporations to pay more taxes, believe the foreclosure situation is having a negative impact on their customer base, and support the creation of a new competitive marketplace for purchasing health insurance. These are among the key findings of the report Taking the Pulse of Florida Small Businesses, a report based on a face-to-face survey of small business owners released in Orlando on February 29 by the Community Business Association, Organize Now, and the Main Street Alliance. Click here to read the full report.
A few days ago, the Main Street Alliance asked small business owners to share what they wanted to hear the President talk about in his upcoming State of the Union address.
We asked: “As a small business owner, what policies would you like to hear the President put forward in the State of the Union Address as part of a vision for supporting small businesses and building an economy that works for the 99 percent in 2012?”
Here are some excerpts from responses we got:
Deborah, owner of a printing and design company in Oregon:
“Help Americans who are having problems with their mortgages – by helping them not lose their homes, they will have more discretionary income to spend and that income can be used to support their local businesses.
“Eliminate tax breaks for large corporations – if they are not keeping their money in the U.S., they should not receive tax breaks.
“And keep on creating jobs – we are a consumer-driven economy and without jobs, Americans do not have money to consume which causes a snowball effect and decreases sales for small businesses.”
Mario, owner of a tax preparation business in Illinois:
“Shine a light on corporate political spending that tilts the playing field against small businesses.”
Bob, owner of a professional training business in Ohio:
“Small and micro businesses do not worry about regulations and taxes. We worry about consumer demand and consumer confidence that promotes business growth. The one percent worry about taxes and regulations so they can play the system to their own advantage.”
Jim, owner of an auto repair shop in Oregon:
“We have so many hard working Americans who can't find jobs. Right here in Portland, many young people are looking for work. They joined the Occupy movement to get some attention for their plight. We have so much work that needs to be done. Teachers need to be rehired, schools and other public buildings need to be upgraded for energy efficiency. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, some of our biggest corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars right now. If they and other wealthy Americans were paying their fair share in taxes, this country would have the money necessary to engage small businesses to hire people into meaningful work, and I would have customers again. When the economy gets back on its feet, then we’ll have the tax revenues needed to pay down our deficit.”
Jose, owner of a real estate agency in Oregon:
“We, small business owners, are an optimistic bunch. We also get right to the point. We need the State of the Union address to set the tone for a great 2012. We do not have a lot of time to complain, as we have to work with the hand we are dealt. The one issue which would bring me more customers and allow me to hire more employees is comprehensive immigration reform. Our housing industry is stalled and motivating a new generation of homebuyers to enter the market will be a big step in the right direction. Our immigration system has to be fixed...let's do it right this time!”
Halcyon, owner of a retail shop in Maine:
“By reducing military spending and ending the wars, we will be able to afford to offer every citizen the basic coverages of health care, increasing job security and mobility, and business formation. We’ll be able to reduce business expenses substantially for Main Street businesses in low population, greying regions of our country – like rural Maine – and make sure fewer of our health care dollars go into the pockets of corporations and more into the delivery of health care.”
Kelly, owner of a custom woodworking business in New Jersey:
“I would like to hear the President talk about 'Real American Companies' and highlight the real contributions they make by employing people here, paying taxes here, and investing here. The President could announce a program to recognize and reward ‘Real American Companies.’ I keep thinking of a heavy machinery company that could build their machines in China, but they don’t. They have kept American jobs – high skill, high paying jobs – here, along with profits and reinvestment, so they should get a business version of the Medal of Freedom.
“This award could include a ‘Presidential Flag’ to be flown outside the corporate headquarters of companies that have won the award. Of course, we could have another award – a corporate turkey award – for companies that cheat on their taxes, move profits and jobs offshore, or manipulate the law in other ways to cheat their employees and the communities that support them.”
The Main Street Alliance and Small Business Majority filed a "friend of the court" brief to the United States Supreme Court presenting a small business case for upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
November 10: Small Business Owners Demand Banks, Health Insurers, Oil Companies Come Clean on Dark Money
Small Business Owners to Banks, Insurers, Energy Companies: “How Are You Spending Our Money?”
Washington, DC—Small business owners in the Main Street Alliance network launched the “Business Against Dark Money” campaign today, calling on banks, health insurers, and oil companies to fully disclose their “dark money” spending – dues and contributions to trade associations and other third parties that can then be used for political purposes, often to advance big business interests at the expense of small businesses, without disclosure of the original source.
Click below for letters sent to national banks, health insurers, energy companies, and their trade groups (state level letters are available upon request; email email@example.com).
OIL AND GAS COMPANIES:
On October 20, an all-star team of small business leaders from across the Main Street Alliance network made the trek to Washington, DC to represent the voice of Main Street small businesses in the nation’s capital.
Business owners came from Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington to participate in meetings on Capitol Hill. In a day and a half, the team conducted close to 20 meetings with Senate and House offices, including three face to face meetings with U.S. Senators.
The group held wide-ranging conversations with congressional offices, covering topics including job creation and regulations, revenues and investment, health care, immigration reform, and fixing the housing market.
Some Hill staffers acknowledged that it was helpful – and refreshing – to hear from real small business owners back in their home states and districts, and to hear business owners with a different perspective on topics like taxes and regulations than you hear from the inside-the-beltway business lobbies. Mission accomplished!
Here’s a quick taste of some of the issues the group discussed in meetings on Capitol Hill:
Job Creation & Anti-Regulatory Attacks
Despite all the rhetoric in DC about “regulations,” what small businesses need is customers – demand – not deregulation. The focus on rolling back regulations is counterproductive in two ways. First, it distracts from the real issue, which is rebuilding the small business customer base. Second, the rules and standards that are under threat of being rolled back (financial reform, clean air, health insurance market reforms) are ones that protect small businesses and the communities they rely on from mistreatment by big corporate interests. Rolling back these standards and rules would only shift more risk and more costs onto the shoulders of small businesses.
See MSA’s 10 “dos and don’ts” for job creation
Revenues and Taxes
On revenues and taxes, Main Street Alliance small business owners stand squarely in support of efforts to raise revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending the abuse of off-shore tax havens, and generally ensuring that large corporations and the wealthy are paying their dues. As MSA Executive Committee member Kelly Conklin puts it, “If you want to fly the American flag outside your corporate headquarters, you should be paying your way.” Raising revenues in these ways would generate resources for important investments in infrastructure and job creation, and it would level the playing field for small businesses (who don’t have access to things like off-shore tax havens) at the same time.
At the same time, MSA small business owners are strongly opposed to the push for a repatriation “tax holiday” for large multinational companies, or to giving big corporations a permanent tax holiday – and permanent incentive to off-shore jobs and profits – through what’s called a “territorial” tax system.
See the recent coalition letter MSA signed onto about tax reform
On health care, the MSA delegation discussed important advances in health care reform, and highlighted opportunities to continue building on health reform to maximize the benefits for small businesses.
The MSA delegation in DC also discussed the importance of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform for businesses, workers, and the economy. Enforcement-only policies like the mandatory E-Verify proposal currently in the House of Representatives would be bad for small businesses, bad for the workforce, and bad for the country’s bottom line.
See MSA’s fact sheet about the dangers of mandatory E-Verify
Fixing the Housing Market
On the importance of dealing with the mortgage crisis to create the space for consumer demand to bounce back and help drive the economic recovery, MSA’s small business owners believe more needs to be done. A newly announced program that may allow 1 to 2 million homeowners to refinance is a positive step, but with an estimated 11 million homeowners underwater in their homes, Congress and the Administration should advance proposals for mortgage modification and refinancing on a much larger scale to truly get at the problem of stifled consumer demand.
Changes are finally coming to states’ health insurance marketplaces. For small businesses, these changes can’t come soon enough. New rules prohibiting discrimination and strengthening oversight of rate increases will protect small businesses from rate shocks. A guaranteed essential benefits package will provide assurance of a minimum level of coverage. And new state insurance exchanges will enhance choice and competition.
But there’s one segment of many states’ insurance markets that is looking to dodge these new rules: association health plans (AHPs). AHPs are coordinated by membership associations – for example, state and regional chambers of commerce. Indeed, some state chambers are among the groups pushing to shield AHPs from having to play by the same rules as other health plans as the Affordable Care Act’s market reforms phase in.
But who really wins if association health plans are allowed to skirt market reforms and thumb their noses at the new rules?
Unregulated AHPs threaten the success of the new state insurance exchanges: by cherry-picking out the youngest and healthiest enrollees, they could stick an exchange with an older and more illness-prone population. That’s clearly not good for any small business participating in the exchange.
On the flip side, businesses getting their health coverage through AHPs won’t have the benefit of the ACA’s new protections – they’ll still be subject to rate discrimination, unreviewed rate hikes, and “thinsurance” (policies with such skimpy coverage they’re barely worth the paper they’re written on). It’s hard to describe that as “winning,” either.
The real winners from allowing AHPs to continue unregulated? The insurance companies (who get to keep doing business as usual, as if health care reform never happened) and the associations that make a regular income from marketing AHPs to their members.
The solution? That’s easy enough: make AHPs play by the same rules as any other health plan in the small group or individual market. Some groups that sell association plans to their members will undoubtedly lobby tooth and nail against this idea, but if they do they’re putting their own bottom line ahead of the best interests of the broader community – not to mention their own members.
Brianne Harrington, owner of The Painted Pot in Helena and a leader with the Montana Small Business Alliance, had an op-ed printed in the Helena Independent-Record making the case for implementing the new value for premiums (medical loss ratio) requirement.
We won’t fix our broken health care system if we allow insurers to cook the books and go on doing business as usual. We need our health insurance companies to approach the premium value requirement as an opportunity to find ways to increase value and cost savings for their members, instead of trying to circumvent it.
Small business owners focus our best energies on providing good value to our customers every day. We deserve and expect nothing less from our health insurance companies.
If upheld by full NAIC, recommendation would gut MLR requirement, hand almost $1 billion in small business and individual rebates back to insurers
Washington, DC – Today, a work group of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) voted to recommend NAIC endorsement of a legislative proposal that would undermine the Affordable Care Act’s minimum medical loss ratio (MLR) requirement by removing agent and broker commissions and fees from the calculation of administrative costs. The Main Street Alliance released the following statement in response:
Kelly Conklin, owner of Foley-Waite Associates, Inc and a member of the Main Street Alliance Steering Committee:
"Today’s task force vote was a very good vote for big insurance and a very bad vote for small businesses. The task force voted to take almost $1 billion in annual rebates to small businesses and individuals and just hand that money right back to the health insurance companies, no questions asked. That’s a real poke in the eye to Main Street.
"The value for premiums requirement is one of the key benefits of the new health law for small businesses. It should be implemented as written, not undermined to bail out the health insurance companies from having to fix their broken business model. If the full NAIC takes into account what small businesses need, they’ll vote to overturn this misguided recommendation and support the value for premiums requirement as written."
The Main Street Alliance submitted a letter on June 28 to the task force outlining the importance of the MLR requirement for small businesses and urging the task force to recommend no change to the requirement. Download a copy of the letter here.
One of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 was something called a minimum Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) requirement. This requirement establishes a basic level of value for premiums. Insurers either meet that standard or, if they fail to, owe rebates to their customers.
If this requirement had been in effect in 2010, health insurance customers would have received rebates of almost $2 billion from insurers who failed to meet the value for premiums standard. That’s some serious money back in the pockets of small business owners who've paid too much for health care – and a serious incentive for insurers to hold premiums down and increase value in the future.
Predictably, these new requirements have come under attack by industry groups that want to roll them back and allow insurers to continue doing "business as usual." The latest attack is an attempt to remove agent and broker commissions and fees from the value for premiums calculation.
What would that mean for small businesses? This change would wipe out $1.2 billion – more than half – of the potential rebates in the 2010 estimates. And, it would undermine the incentive for insurers to hold premiums down going forward.
The Main Street Alliance submitted a letter to a task force of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) on June 28 outlining the small business case for protecting the value for premiums requirement and implementing the new minimum medical loss ratio standards without changes.
New research released today re-confirms two key points that small business owners who've been fighting for health care reform knew all along:
- First, that employer health coverage has been on the decline for the last decade, and small businesses have been feeling the squeeze more than anyone.
- And second, that provisions of the Affordable Care Act are going to bring health coverage within reach for a lot of small business owners who want to offer coverage but haven't been able to.
This second point is real good news for small businesses, and it comes in an Urban Institute report released today by the non-partisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (it's refreshing to see some real research after the circus show over the controversial McKinsey & Co. "study" that has been thoroughly debunked over the past week).
The Urban Institute study forecasts that insurance offer rates for firms with 100 or fewer employees will increase by nearly 10 percent thanks to the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges and other insurance market reforms. Firms with fewer than 10 employees are expected to see the biggest jump - an increase of more than 14 percent. Talk about delivering big for small businesses!
Of course, many important decisions remain to be made about how states will set up their new insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. Main Street Alliance leaders are actively engaged in states from Maine to Oregon to promote exchanges that maximize on the opportunity to make quality, affordable health coverage available to all small businesses.