Westfield Leader and Scotch Plains–Fanwood Times

Organization Takes The Pulse Of Main Street In New Jersey

The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains–Fanwood Times — Thursday, January 29, 2009

Letters to the Editor

New Jersey small-business owners want real health reform, are willing to contribute, and want the option of a public health insurance plan. These are the surprising findings of the report Taking the Pulse of Main Street: Small Businesses, Health Insurance, and Priorities for Reform released by the NJ Main Street Alliance. The report documents small business owners' experiences with private health insurance and perspectives on different reform proposals. Key survey results for NJ challenge the conventional wisdom in three arenas:

NJ small business owners preferred a proposal with a public alternative to private coverage over a proposal with expanded private market option by a margin of nearly 3 to 1 (60 percent to 21 percent, with 19 percent undecided).

NJ small business owners indicated they are willing to pitch in to make healthcare work. Of small employers surveyed, 71 percent indicated they would pay 4-7 percent of payroll or more to guarantee quality, affordable coverage for themselves and employees.

NJ small business owners indicated a strong preference for more public oversight of the insurance industry (74 percent), and broad support for a stronger government role in guaranteeing access to quality, affordable health coverage (78 percent).

This report indicates that small businesses want a quality public option so they can't be held hostage by the insurance industry any more. At a time when health insurers are challenging President Obama's goal to create a public plan as an alternative to private insurance, small business support is likely to be critical to advancing healthcare reform in 2009.

NJ's small business owners also indicated they are willing to pay their fair share for a real healthcare solution, but small businesses can't go it alone. Token gestures like tax credits that leave the current system essentially intact aren't a real solution. A real solution is going to require a stronger role for government; which should include the creation of a quality public health insurance option.

The report, based on a survey of 1,200 small businesses in 12 states, including NJ, includes breakout pages for NJ with state-specific survey results and profiles of impacted business owners from Bloomfield, Elizabeth, Morris Plains and Willingboro. This healthcare mess we're in is a major roadblock to economic recovery. The country is looking to small businesses to create jobs and help revitalize our economy - but we need a real healthcare fix to fulfill that promise.

The NJ Main Street Alliance is committed to ensuring that as the public debate over health reform ramps up in 2009, members of NJ's Congressional Delegation know that small businesses in NJ want real health reform, are willing to contribute to the solution, and are looking to government to play a proactive role with creation of a quality public insurance option.

Taking the Pulse of Main Street: Small Businesses, Health Insurance and Priorities for Reform is available online for download at www.mainstreetalliance.org/publications.

Crystal Snedden
NJ Main Street Alliance, Newark

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