SmallBiz Vote

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 fund co-founded by former Bush Administration advisor Karl Rove. House lawmakers have asked the NFIB to reveal the donors that covered its lawsuit costs, the Journal reported.

2. Advocacy group the Small Business Majority released survey findings yesterday that it says indicate that half of small business owners want the healthcare reform law upheld. One-third want the Supreme Court to overturn it. Based on its survey of 800 owners of businesses with 100 or fewer employees in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Texas, and Virginia, the group says, "Once small business owners learn more about the law, their support for keeping it intact—either as is or with minor changes—rises to 56 percent, while opposition falls to just 28 percent."

3. But the National Association for the Self-Employed has the opposite message. According to NASE, "the more the self-employed learn about the Affordable Care Act, the less likely they are to support it." Results of its survey of 1,900 businesses with 10 or fewer employees indicate that respondents are bracing for bigger healthcare expenses.

The NASE report is dated June 2012, but the data were gathered from September — November 2011. The Small Business Majority's poll was conducted last week. Could the bipolar results be attributable to what small business owners have learned in the past 6 months? Or are they due to the difference in size of business surveyed? NASE says that many of its members are too small to qualify for healthcare tax incentives, and argues that when the individual mandate in the law goes into effect in 2014, "the self-employed will be required to purchase both more expansive and more expensive coverage."

Or maybe the two groups aren't that different after all. NASE said its poll determined that "one in four respondents believe that the cost of their health insurance will increase when the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect in 2014." In other words, three in four believe their costs will remain the same or shrink. The report's headline was, "New Data Shows Many Self-Employed Believe the Cost of Health Care Coverage Will Go Up Under the Affordable Care Act."  A subhead could have been, "But Many More Self-Employed Do Not."

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