Understandably, there has been much coverage of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act, which had in it several provisions for small businesses. Most notably, it doesn't affect those that employ less than 50 people. That's a huge number of small businesses in the United States. Despite all the uproar, the decision (even if the law was struck down) didn't really matter to the small business community. Why? Because the majority of business owners have no idea what's in the bill, what it means for them and what they need to do to act on it. In this case a lack of education is hurting small businesses, regardless of the legislation. The question is, who is at fault?
Just how far short are small business owners in terms of knowledge when it comes to the healthcare laws? According to a recently released survey done by the Wall Street Journal, 66% of small business owners had no idea if their company qualified for a for a small-business health-care tax credit first available in 2010, as part of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Government Accountability Office, only 170,000 small businesses took advantage of the credit, when in fact millions were supposed to have been eligible.
Diving deeper into the numbers, the survey was conducted amongst the high earning small businesses, limited to the heads of businesses with annual revenue between $1 million and $20 million. If the people who run businesses that generate millions of dollars don't have any clue as to what's in the healthcare bills, you can image how little insight the every day mom and pop stores will have. In their case, ignorance may be bliss in that they're too small to qualify anyway, but it strikes a larger point as to the long road from legislation to actually helping the owners that need it.
What's ironic is that the administration set up an entire website dedicated to explaining what's in the healthcare bill and what it means not only for small businesses but individuals as well. There's a Facebook page (with just over 12K fans) and a Twitter following with over 50,000 followers. Case study videos from real people talking about how they have taken advantage of the credit are up on the site. A link to the IRS website even outlines how to specifically take advantage of the credit come tax time, and how to claim it on your tax return. You can say a lot of things about the current administration, but holding back on information when it comes to the ACA is not one of them.
Be it the lack of uncertainty around the bill's standing, the provisions in it, or the actual details pertaining to small businesses in the national media, the information is clearly not getting into the hands of the people who need it, despite being there.
My friend Gene Marks recently wrote a column for the Huffington Post that somewhat chastised small businesses for leaning on "uncertainty" as a crutch for not succeeding, arguing that there is never a time in history (or will be in the future) when anything will be certain. Similarly, this post is to call on all small businesses to get educated about the ACA, which is now "100% law" and will fully go into effect as planned. Businesses that don't take advantage of the benefits, and know what the pitfalls are for not complying, will end up costing themselves money in the long run.
For many businesses in Massachusetts, the ruling provided a welcome sense of clarity, but across the country, education remains far short of where it needs to be. So visit the site, check out the Twitter feed, or watch a few of the videos to find out exactly what's in the bill and what it means to you. The few minutes spent could mean hundreds if not thousands of dollars in savings come tax time in 2013.
Has your small business taken advantage of the new healthcare laws? Do you feel you're as educated about it as you should be?
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Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.