The Voice of Small Business: It's a Start, But Small Businesses Need to Hear More

When Sen. John McCain delivered the keynote address at the National Federation of Independent Business 2008 National Small Business Summit last month, he did much more than speak to several hundred interested small business owners. He pushed the concerns of a significant voting bloc to the forefront of the presidential campaigns. In fact, both Sens. McCain and Barack Obama have spent much time specifically addressing the No. 1 issue among small businesses — healthcare. And it’s about time.

Recognizing that healthcare costs have become unmanageable for many entrepreneurs, Sen. McCain said, if elected, his administration would introduce healthcare reform that would provide hardworking Americans more options and expand portability of coverage.

Sen. Obama, who was invited to speak at the Summit but did not attend, responded to Sen. McCain’s remarks by reiterating that small businesses need more options to access quality, affordable healthcare coverage. We also know both candidates recognize that implementing health information technology and addressing an inequitable tax structure should play a part in any comprehensive reform package.

Over the past few weeks, it’s been encouraging to see the candidates discuss the issues facing the small business, especially the rising cost of healthcare. But they — and all of our country’s leaders — must realize that entrepreneurs deserve more than just discussions. Because the truth is, these job creators, those on the front lines of the healthcare crisis, are the voters who will be electing the next president, and they are demanding the next administration and Congress implement real change that makes healthcare more affordable for working Americans.

According to a recent NFIB survey, 81 percent of small business owners and 52 percent of employees do not feel the presidential candidates are adequately addressing issues that are important to them, specifically healthcare. In fact, nearly three-quarters of those polled say fixing healthcare should be a top priority for the next president, and nearly 80 percent agree that “it is important to me to vote for a presidential candidate whose healthcare plan makes sense for small business.”

A similar survey showed that the small business community comprised 43 percent of U.S. registered voters and nearly 32 percent of the electorate on Super Tuesday. These numbers prove that small business is a powerful, motivated group in a position to demand substantial solutions to the healthcare crisis from their candidates.

Both candidates are focused on reforming our ailing healthcare system and have begun to recognize that small business must be considered in any proposed legislation. The National Small Business Summit may have ended, but small business’ commitment to achieving quality, affordable healthcare has not.

We’re at the beginning of long and productive discussions with both candidates to ensure the needs of small businesses remain at the forefront of the healthcare debate. Because we know that solutions to America’s healthcare crisis must start with small businesses, the backbone of the U.S. economy. When healthcare is fixed for small business, it will be fixed for America.