Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • Will “essential health benefits” raise your rates?

    With the Affordable Care Act force you to get health benefits you don't want?

    The National Association for the Self Employed, a group that helps entrepreneurs secure benefits including health insurance, has warned that the Affordable Care Act threatens to increase health insurance rates for the self employed by 10-13 percent by 2014. The organization predicts that a section of the bill mandating "essential health benefits" will force insurance companies to expand the minimum benefits they provide, even in high-deductible plans. Self-employed individuals therefore "may have to pay for a health insurance product that they don't need or want," says NASE spokeswoman Katie Vlietstra.

    What are essential health benefits? That remains to be seen. According to the Affordable Care Act language, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will define them, "except that such benefits shall include at least the following general categories and the items and services covered within the categories: (A) Ambulatory patient services. (B) Emergency services. (C) Hospitalization.

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  • Where small businesses can get Affordable Care facts

    Sorting Affordable Care facts from fiction

    If you're self-employed or a small business owner, the contradictory responses from small business advocates to yesterday's Supreme Court decision might have left you confused about whether the decision is good news or bad for your business. Some say the Affordable Care Act will keep your healthcare costs in check, others say it will jack them up.

    The President claims the law will help small employers, his opponents say the opposite. Some suggest that would-be entrepreneurs with new-found affordable access to insurance will be unleashed from corporate cuffs. Others say costs of insurance for the self-employed will grow out of control. It's no wonder that hundreds of comments from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor readers reveal widespread confusion and politically motivated biases about the law.

    Who's a small business owner to believe? Sitting down and reading the law yourself, which you can do here, might not be as cumbersome as you think. The word "employer" appears on only 123 pages of

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  • Supreme Court healthcare decision: Small business advocates react

    Small business groups voiced varied reactions to today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  

    Dan Danner, president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which took the case against the law’s "individual mandate" to the Supreme Court, said he is “disappointed,” but vowed to “move forward from today to continue to fight, harder than ever, for real health-care reform for our membership.” Danner warned that, under the healthcare law, “small-business owners are going to face an onslaught of taxes and mandates, resulting in job loss and closed businesses.”

    The Small Business Majority, on the other hand, applauded the court’s 5-4 decision, calling it a “victory for small business owners who have struggled with the excessively high cost of health insurance for decades.” The group says the Act tackles small business owners’ top priorities—cost and accessibility—and predicts that the law will

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  • Watchdog group wants truth in small business procurement

    Most small business federal procurement dollars go to big business, group says.

    The Obama Administration hasn't yet released its annual report on the proportion of federal contract dollars awarded to small businesses in the past year, but the American Small Business League predicts that when the document arrives this summer it will misrepresent the facts. Not that the league is accusing the Obama Administration of doing anything its predecessors haven't. It's common practice for big businesses disguised as small ones to be counted among the awardees of federal procurement dollars designated for small business.

    Since 1953, the federal government has been mandated to spend 23 percent of the total value of all federal prime contracts with small businesses. But "fraud, abuse, and loopholes in federal policy and implementation result in the majority of federal small business contracts being illegally diverted to large corporations every year," the watchdog group says. The organization estimates that only 10 percent of federal contract dollars were awarded to

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  • Most small business owners have skipped paychecks

    “Sorry, no paycheck this week.” It’s a phrase completely foreign to most government workers and politicians, but all too familiar in the small business community.

    More than one of every two small business owners has skipped a payday to keep their business afloat through the tough economy, according to a national Citibank phone survey of 750 small business owners/operators conducted last month.
     
    Fifty-four percent of owners said they have gone without a paycheck at some point, and almost one-quarter have gone without pay for one year or more sometime in the history of their business. Many more have taken paycuts or given up vacation and family time to keep the company going: 78 percent said they have taken less profit to support the business and 70 percent worked more hours than usual.

    Small business employees know the drill too. More than one-third of owners said their employees worked additional hours without pay, and 18 percent said their employees voluntarily missed or delayed a

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  • Ten tweeting tips for small businesses

    If the recent Profit Minded post "How a Designer Turns Tweets into Sales" left you thinking that tweeting 14 times a day is beyond your capacity, here's another angle.

    A tweet a day could grow your customer base.

    Twitter itself has just published a 21-page guide for small business owners on how to use the platform to engage customers and "put Twitter to work for your business." The straightforward, simple, and illustrated tips are designed to show business owners how to "connect with customers, amplify your message, and ultimately, grow your business." And one tweet a day might be all you need to make an impact.

    For total newbies, the guide dissects the anatomy of the 140-character tweet, tells you what to do with a hashtag, explains what it means to follow and be followed on Twitter, and shows how and why to retweet and direct-message your followers. It also offers tips on designing your profile page, and developing your company's Twitter voice with plenty of inspiring examples from well-done small business feeds.

    For those

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  • Confounding reports on small business and healthcare

    146061239With a ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act expected from the Supreme Court any day, small business organizations have been re-airing their views about healthcare reform.

    What the Court will decide is anyone's guess, but two surveys published this week by small business advocacy organizations predict how the decision will affect their constituents. Unfortunately, the predictions are contradictory. Further confusing matters is a question raised this week about the validity of the National Federation of Independent Businesses' claim that its Supreme Court lawsuit represents the interests of small businesses.

    Consider these news items reported this week:

    1. National Federation of Independent Businesses is the group that brought the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act to the Supreme Court on behalf of its members. But the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that nearly $4 million of NFIB funding in the year it filed the lawsuit came from a Republican campaign

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  • Is your workplace social media policy legal?

    Would your workplace social media policy hold up to NLRB scrutiny?

    That some employers routinely ask job applicants to hand over their Facebook passwords was provocative news in May when two U.S. Senators asked the Attorney General to investigate the legality of the practice. Employers demanding to snoop around inside a potential hire's Facebook account? Why not ask prospective employees to hand over their personal diaries and family photo albums too? The sleaziness of the practice just seemed obvious.

    But the National Labor Relations Board has determined that employers need guidance when it comes to writing workplace social media policies. The independent federal agency recently released a report focused on employer policies governing employees' use of social media.

    "Employee use of social media as it relates to the workplace continues to increase, raising various concerns by employers, and in turn, resulting in employers' drafting new and/or revising existing policies and rules to address these concerns," wrote Lafe Solomon, Acting General Counsel

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  • Bankers forecast better credit for businesses

    American Bankers Association outlook for business is mildly positive

    More and better credit will be available to businesses in the next six months, continuing into next year. That's the prediction of the American Bankers Association, which this week issued a forecast for U.S. economic performance predicting growth of 11.5 percent this year in loans to businesses.

    The trade group, which represents the $14 trillion industry that has taken much of the blame for the U.S. recession, stated that "the significant increase in credit growth shows that the banks are doing their part to make loans that will help drive the economic recovery." Whether or not you agree, additional forecasts made by the group are mildly encouraging for small business owners.

    ABA Economic Advisory Committee chairman George Mokrzan said that consumers will also experience more opportunities for credit. An increase of 7.4 percent in loans to individuals will lead to stronger consumer spending in the second half of this year, he said. The group expects consumer spending, which represents

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  • How a designer turns tweets into sales

    Patti Wunder, owner of Easton Place, generates leads on Twitter

    Patti Wunder was savvy from the start about leveraging social media to generate business for her one-woman handmade stationery and digital branding operation, Easton Place. She built a beautiful website, writes an engaging blog, has posted hundreds of enchanting photos to Flickr, produces a monthly e-newsletter, keeps her Facebook page up-to-date, pinned feverishly to Pinterest until copyright concerns led her to drop it, and has a busy storefront on Etsy.com.

    But she says her @easton_place Twitter feed has translated to the biggest sales of all.

    Wunder's stationery products, which she calls "fine paper lovelies," hark back to pre-Internet etiquette. In the age of Evites and Facebook birthday greetings, her hand-drawn cards printed on high-quality stock seek to sustain the disappearing tradition of the U.S.P.S.-delivered invitation and the calligraphy note.

    But 140-character electronic messages have turned out to be a winning way for her to find new customers. In the two-plus years

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