Findings from a recently conducted poll of small, California-based employers reveal that the majority of them are unfamiliar with the provisions in the new healthcare law that might assist them in providing insurance to their employees.
More specifically, the survey found that 57 percent of small businesses are not familiar with the tax credits they can now claim to offset their healthcare costs, and 62 percent of them have not even heard about healthcare exchanges. Furthermore, more than half of those polled who already offer insurance to their employees said that they would continue to do so because of the new tax credits, while 43% of those who are not offering insurance currently said they would be more likely to do so once they learn more about key provisions in the law.
Citing what he deems to be “an indisputable trend,” John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, the organization that advised Pacific Community Ventures on the project, summarized these and other recent poll results as follows:
“Both a national survey we released in January and feedback we received from small business owners during our recent California Listening Tour confirm that when owners learn about the benefits for them in the law, they like what they hear and say it makes them more likely to offer insurance.”
The law that Arensmeyer refers to, of course, is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was made official on March 23, 2010 and includes two key provisions that affect small businesses in particular:
- Small business tax credits, which allow businesses with fewer than 25 employees with average annual wages under $50,000 to get a tax credit of up to 35 percent of their health insurance costs beginning in tax year 2010; and
- Insurance exchanges that go into effect in 2014, which are online marketplaces where small businesses and individuals can band together to purchase insurance with the goal of fostering competition and therefore reducing costs.
The merits and drawbacks to both of these approaches continue to be hotly debated, with arguments oftentimes falling out along party lines. That said it’s important to note two key things: 1) the point of view of the two organizations that commissioned the poll; and 2) the mix of survey respondents.
Regarding the first item, both Pacific Community Ventures and Small Business Majority are aligned with the Administration and its allies who support the new law. As for the second, the breakdown among the more than 800 businesses with fewer than 20 employees that were polled for the survey was as follows:
- 45% percent of respondents identified themselves as Republicans, 26% as Democrats and 21% as Independents
- 29% owned businesses in the industry and manufacturing sector, 21% in the retail and restaurant sector, 44% in the service sector and 5% from other sectors; and
- Half of those businesses polled had two to nine employees, while the other 50% had 10 to 19.
If in fact small business owners are as uninformed and confused about the new healthcare legislation as these findings indicate, they are hardly in the minority. A recent poll by the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation
found that 53% of Americans would describe themselves as “confused” when it comes to the new healthcare law, a percentage that has remained stagnant since the period just after it was passed in April of last year.