Thursday, June 25, 2009

CDC Introduces New Website to Help Employers Combat Obesity and Reduce Health-Related Costs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] today unveiled LEAN Works!, a website designed to help businesses address obesity. LEAN stands for Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition. The new website was announced at a National Business Group on Health [NBGH] meeting in Washington, D.C.

"CDC LEAN Works! was developed in direct response to organizations asking CDC for help in addressing the obesity epidemic. Specifically they wanted to know what interventions were effective in helping employees maintain a healthy weight," said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. "CDC has identified science-based interventions that work to prevent and control obesity. CDC LEAN Works! provides the tools that employers need to take action."

The free website was developed particularly for small and mid-size companies, which typically have more limited resources to devote to obesity prevention efforts. However, the tools and resources available on CDC LEAN Works! can benefit companies of any size. CDC LEAN Works! can help employers calculate the cost of obesity for their organizations, and develop tailored approaches to help control these costs through interventions such as fitness classes, lunchtime health education sessions, weight management programs, and more.

The website provides a variety of resources to employers, including:

* An obesity cost calculator where employers can input employee demographic data to estimate the total costs associated with obesity, and determine annual obesity-related medical costs for their companies.

* Information and resources to help employers plan, build, promote and assess interventions to combat obesity.

* Information on how employers can estimate return on investment -- a measure of the cost of an intervention, compared to the expected financial return of the intervention.

Obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Obese individuals spend 77 percent more money for necessary medications than non-obese persons.

"Obesity affects more than just health-care costs. It also has a significant impact on worker productivity, because the more chronic diseases employees have, the more likely they are to be absent from work, or less productive if they come to work sick," said Janet Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Because organizations do not usually publish information about their worksite programs in the scientific literature, CDC visited select businesses to identify promising worksite obesity prevention and control practices. The CDC LEAN Works! website provides case studies from some of those businesses to provide examples of successful worksite obesity prevention programs.

"Workplace obesity prevention programs can be an effective way for employers to reduce obesity and lower their health-care costs, lower absenteeism and increase employee productivity," said Dr. Dietz. Employers may also see other indirect benefits when they implement these programs, such as improved employee morale, increased worker retention, and improved recruitment of new employees.”

To learn more about CDC LEAN Works!, visit

For more information about CDC’s efforts to combat obesity, please visit

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Verbatim: Diverse Voices Address Small-Biz Need for Health Care Reform

As often as possible, GoodBiz113 presents diverse perspectives on small business and entrepreneurship from those who help shape policies and practices that impact us. Here's what some folks have been saying these past couple of weeks about the hot-button subject of health care reform...

"Health care expenditures in the United States are currently about 18 percent of GDP, and this share is projected to rise sharply. If health care costs continue to grow at historical rates, the share of GDP devoted to health care in the United States is projected to reach 34 percent by 2040. For households with employer-sponsored health insurance, this trend implies that a progressively smaller fraction of their total compensation will be in the form of take-home pay and a progressively larger fraction will take the form of employer-provided health insurance.

"The rising share of health expenditures also has dire implications for government budgets. Almost half of current health care spending is covered by Federal, state, and local governments. If health care costs continue to grow at historical rates, Medicare and Medicaid spending [both federal and state] will rise to nearly 15 percent of GDP in 2040. Of this increase, roughly one-quarter is estimated to be due to the aging of the population and other demographic effects, and three-quarters is due to rising health care costs.

"Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance. CEA projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. A key factor driving this trend is the tendency of small firms not to provide coverage due to the rising cost of health care." -- Council of Economic Advisers [CEA], chaired by Christina Romer [pictured], "The Economic Case for Health Care Reform" [June 2, Executive Office of the President]

* * *

"Nobody supports the status quo. We absolutely have to have reform... If this thing gets derailed, it's going to be bad for everybody." -- James Gelfand, senior manager of health policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, noting that a government plan wouldn't be needed if insurance market reforms, such as prohibiting insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, were enacted. He hopes the larger goal of health care reform -- lowering costs so more people can afford coverage -- doesn't get lost in battles over public plans and employer mandates. [June 8, "Business Warily Awaits Health Care Reform," Washington Business Journal]

* * *

"...At the individual level, the average American spends about $7,900 per year on health care. Despite that huge outlay, a recent study found that medical problems contributed to 62 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007. From a business perspective, General Motors spends more on health care per automobile than on steel while small-business owners are forced to divert hard-earned profits into health coverage for their employees -- rather than new business investments. And, because of rising costs, many businesses are cutting back drastically on their level of health care coverage or are doing away with it entirely..." -- Sen. Bernie Sanders [I-Vt., pictured], "Health Care Is a Right, Not a Privilege" [June 9, The Huffington Post]

* * *

"It's not tax supported like Medicare; it will be financed by premiums just like regular insurance, except for people who can't afford it. If you have coverage that works, you continue to have coverage that works. The only change will be now the coverage will have to be good. The other change is that your company will be required to provide good coverage or help pay for it. So, for most Americans, nothing's going to change. But for people who don't get coverage that works -- the self-employed, people with several part-time jobs, small business -- they will be able to go into a new health insurance marketplace called the Exchange, a national public insurance company financed by premiums. Unless they make below a certain level, four times poverty, and then they'll be subsidized." -- Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager, Health Care for America Now [HCAN], a national grassroots campaign of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states -- representing 30 million people -- dedicated to winning comprehensive, quality, affordable health care that we can all count on in 2009. [June 9, "What's the Deal With Obama's Public Health-Care Plan?" Esquire]

* * *

"...The cost of health care has helped leave big corporations like GM and Chrysler at a competitive disadvantage with their foreign counterparts. For small businesses, it’s even worse. One month, they’re forced to cut back on health care benefits. The next month, they've got to drop coverage. The month after that, they have no choice but to start laying off workers...

"I know that there are millions of Americans who are happy, who are content with their health care coverage -- they like their plan, they value their relationship with their doctor. And no matter how we reform health care, I intend to keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you'll be able to keep your doctor; if you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan.

"So don't let people scare you. If you like what you've got, we're not going to make you change. But in order to preserve what's best about our health care system, we have to fix what doesn't work. For we've reached the point where doing nothing about the cost of health care is no longer an option. The status quo is unsustainable. If we don't act, and act soon to bring down costs, it will jeopardize everybody's health care. If we don't act, every American will feel the consequences in higher premiums -- which, by the way, means lower take-home pay, because it's not as if those costs are all borne by your employer; that's money that could have gone to giving you a raise -- in lost jobs and shuttered businesses, in a rising number of uninsured and a rising debt that our children and their children will be paying off for decades..." -- President Barack Obama, during remarks made at a town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wis., on health care and his vision for a Health Insurance Exchange. [June 11, Executive Office of the President]

* * *

"Small businesses in the United States are suffering great harm under our current health care system, and will likely fare far better under a substantially reformed system along the lines of what is currently being debated in Washington -- as long as such a system offers appropriate levels of assistance to small businesses in meeting their health care obligations." -- Small Business Majority, a national nonprofit nonpartisan organization, founded and run by small-business owners, that brings the voice of America's 27 million small businesses to the public-policy table. [June 11, "The Economic Impact of Healthcare Reform on Small Business"]

* * *

"A national health insurance exchange would offer an array of competing private plans and a new public health insurance plan, helping to improve coverage for 138 million currently insured individuals through more choices, better benefits, and/or more affordable premiums, which would be 20 to 30 percent lower than those now charged in the individual and small-business markets for comparable benefits and enrollees. Savings would be realized by employers and households at every income level." -- The Commonwealth Fund, who co-sponsored a report with Consumers Union, suggesting that a comprehensive and high-quality health care system can be established with a mixed public-private insurance system, a requirement for all employers to offer or contribute to coverage of their workers, and an individual coverage mandate. [June 11, "Front and Center: Ensuring That Health Reform Puts People First"]

GoodBiz113's take: Health care is not a Democatic issue nor a Republican issue; it's a very human issue that deserves to be remedied now. Naysayers need to put their politics and egos aside, and embrace President Obama's far-reaching plan that aims to deliver high-quality care at relatively low cost, and provides health insurance for all Americans.

SOURCES: The Commonwealth Fund, Council of Economic Advisers, Esquire, Huffington Post, Small Business Majority, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington Business Journal, The White House, Wikipedia
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Sens. Landrieu, Snowe Call for GAO Investigation Into Small-Business Hurricane Recovery Efforts

U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu [D-La.] and Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe [R-Maine] today wrote to Gene L. Dodaro [pictured], acting comptroller general of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, requesting a progress report on Gulf Coast small-business recovery efforts. The senators expect that the investigation will be completed ahead of the fifth anniversaries of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in August 2010.

After the 2005 storms, "The region’s small businesses experienced massive losses that caused great harm to those businesses’ owners, employees and customers," Sens. Landrieu and Snowe wrote. "Federal assistance to small businesses has been, and continues to be, imperative for the region’s economic recovery."

The investigation is meant to focus on the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program and state-administered business assistance programs funded by Department of Housing and Urban Development’s community development block grants. The senators also requested details on federal recovery contracts received by small businesses in the Gulf Coast region.

"We would also like you to provide information on the current state, and improvements in, the region’s small-business economy," the senators wrote.

For further details of the request, please view the letter here:

SOURCES: U.S. Government Accountability Office [photo], U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Wikipedia

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Intuit Announces Winners of Small Business United Grant Competition

Ioana Sherman always had a passion for music. As a 10-year-old, she begged her mom for a clarinet so she could join the school band. Now, 19 years later, she plans to transform a home into a music school for children using a $25,000 grant as the grand-prize winner of Intuit Inc.’s Small Business United Grant Competition. Ioana, whose name is pronounced "E-wanna," will also receive $2,500 in Intuit products and services, such as the best-selling QuickBooks® financial software, to help her fulfill her dream of sharing her gift of music.

Born in Bucharest, Romania, and immigrating to the United States with her parents at the age of three, Ioana’s family had no money for music lessons. But somehow, her family got her that clarinet. Later, a family friend donated a piano. With her grandmother’s encouragement, she taught herself to play, and a career was born -- even if she didn’t know it at the time.

In college, Ioana taught music to earn money for tuition while earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education and musicology. After graduation, she continued giving lessons while looking for that "real job" when she made a discovery.

"I finally realized I was living my passion and I had a real job this whole time," Ioana says. Combining her passion with her business savvy, she opened Ioana’s Music Lessons in Chapel Hill, N.C. "With more than a decade of experience, I’m ready to move forward and create a musical haven for children and adults alike."

Ioana’s story was one of the nearly 2,000 submitted for the Small Business United Grant Competition. She was among 50 finalists who each received a $5,000 grant and were invited to create videos telling their personal business stories. The judges -- including John Jantsch [pictured], best-selling author and founder of GoodBiz113 ad partner Duct Tape Marketing® -- selected the grand-prize and runner-up winners based on quality, creativity and public ratings.

Four runner-up winners will each receive a $10,000 business grant, plus $2,500 in Intuit products and services to support their growing businesses. They include:
* Melissa Baswell, Mountains of the Moon [Chicago]: a sustainable design and apparel organization aimed at creating chic, high-quality eco-friendly clothing;
* Jana Chang, Haute Fan Couture [St. Augustine, Fla.]: a designer of custom-created "game day" dresses, made to order in one’s favorite sport team’s colors;
* Dina DiNucci, Park Place Coffee & Crepes [Gresham, Ore.]: a coffee and crepe restaurant that’s all about community; and
* Cathy Henry, Peter Henry, and Josh Henry, J-Dig Cards [Dallas]: a greeting-card manufacturer whose cards combine pop culture, sharp humor and unpredictable wordplays that appeal to both sexes and all age groups.

"The Small Business United Grant Competition brought the small-business community together to share stories, give and receive advice, and inspire each other," said Kiran Patel, executive vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business Group. "Ioana’s passion, talent, and hard work sets a great example for the rest of the small-business community. She’s a classic example of the American dream. We congratulate her and thank all of the businesses who shared their stories."

The competition is part of Intuit’s Small Business United initiative, launched earlier this year to give America’s 27 million small businesses a boost. More than one million people have visited the Small Business United Web site to seek advice from their peers and to take advantage of the campaign’s other offerings, which include free Intuit products, services and resources.

About Intuit Small Business United Campaign
Intuit’s Small Business United campaign is designed to bring America's entrepreneurs together, and to fuel their growth by providing free products, services and resources that help them attract customers, save money and make money. Visit for more information about the initiative and information on how to redeem free business tools and products from Intuit.

About Intuit Inc.
GoodBiz113 ad partner Intuit Inc. is a leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses; financial institutions, including banks and credit unions; consumers and accounting professionals. Its flagship products and services, including QuickBooks®, Quicken® and TurboTax® software, simplify small business management and payroll processing, merchant services, personal finance, and tax preparation and filing. ProSeries® and Lacerte® are Intuit's leading tax preparation software suites for professional accountants. The company's Financial Institutions Division, anchored by Digital Insight, provides on-demand banking services to help banks and credit unions serve businesses and consumers with innovative solutions.

Founded in 1983, Intuit had annual revenue of $3.1 billion in its fiscal year 2008. The company has approximately 8,000 employees with major offices in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, India and other locations. Through good times and bad, it's demonstrated a longstanding tradition of corporate social responsibility. More information can be found at

SOURCE: Intuit Inc.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Klobuchar Fights for Fairness for Minnesota Chrysler and GM Dealers

As part of her ongoing efforts to address the concerns of Minnesota’s auto dealers, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar [D-Minn.] yesterday questioned top executives from General Motors and Chrysler about their plans to close dozens of dealerships in the state, and pushed for a restructuring process that is fair to all dealers.

At a Commerce Committee hearing, Klobuchar highlighted the importance of local dealers to their communities and urged GM and Chrysler to give full and fair consideration to the concerns of these dealers and their employees. Witnesses at the hearing included GM CEO Fritz Henderson, Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press, and auto dealership representatives.

"This isn’t just about Detroit or Washington," said Klobuchar. "This is about locally owned businesses, as well as the employees, customers and communities who depend on them."

At the hearing, Klobuchar pushed GM and Chrysler executives for answers to why they are closing so many dealers and how they decided which dealers to close. Klobuchar noted that many of the dealers in Minnesota that were notified of closure are dealers that are doing well, especially in the current economy.

She highlighted Walser Buick Pontiac GMC in Bloomington, Fury Dodge Chrysler in Lake Elmo, and Koronis Motors in Paynesville as examples of successful dealers that have been targeted for termination.

"Those termination decisions may have been made in the boardrooms of Detroit, but they have already had devastating consequences in living rooms across the country," Klobuchar noted. "From the perspective of many auto dealers and the local communities they serve, the restructuring process looks neither fair nor orderly. We need a process that is transparent and fair."

In recent months, Klobuchar has worked directly with Minnesota dealers, the auto companies and the Obama Administration to seek relief for dealerships that have been designated for closure. Today, she met with the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association, and met with the president of GM North America, and Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press yesterday.

Additionally, Klobuchar has sponsored an amendment, introduced with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison [R-Tex.], which would ensure that dealerships have an extra 60 days to close their operations and sell remaining inventory.

"I’ve made it very clear to both the Obama Administration and the car companies that our local dealers must be treated fairly as the auto industry works toward a stable future," Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar was joined at the hearing by several Minnesota dealers, including: Scott Preusse Motors in Redwood Falls [Chrysler]: Koronis Motors in Paynesville [GM]; Walser Buick Pontiac GMC in Bloomington [GM); Shakopee Chevrolet Pontiac in Shakopee [GM]; Nelson Auto Center in Fergus Falls [GM]; and Fury Dodge Chrysler in Lake Elmo (Chrysler].

GoodBiz113's take: Thank you, Sen. Klobuchar, for once again advocating on small businesses' behalf -- as well as that of our myriad stakeholders. Hopefully, Al Franken [D-Minn.] will soon be allowed to take his rightfully elected U.S. Senate seat in order to complement your seemingly tireless [?] aim of working on behalf of all Minnesotans.

SOURCES: Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Working for the People of Minnesota [photo], U.S. Senate Commerce Committee

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Verbatim: Influencers on Sotomayor, Small-Biz Lending, Broadband, New Native American Leadership, National Cybersecurity, Net Neutrality

As often as possible, GoodBiz113 presents diverse perspectives on small business and entrepreneurship from those who help shape small-business policies and practices, as well as those who report on small-biz-related developments. Here's what some folks said last week...

"...Generally speaking, Sotomayor is also considered pretty moderate, at least when it comes to other issues businesses care about, such as limiting class action lawsuits and pre-empting state laws with federal laws, several attorneys said. She has ruled for investors and companies in many different types of cases..." -- senior writer Jennifer Liberto, comparing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor [pictured] to outgoing Justice David Souter. [May 26, "Sotomayor: Important Business Awaits,"]

* * *

"In the current financial climate, it’s especially critical for small firms to know which banks and financial institutions have been the most likely to make small and microbusiness loans." -- SBA Office of Advocacy economist Victoria Williams, upon release of a study that ranks banks on small-business lending and provides hints about current financial trends.

According to the latest edition of the Office of Advocacy’s annual study of lending to small firms, Williams and co-author Charles Ou, a senior economist, found that the growth of small and microbusiness lending remained positive during the first half of 2008, although the expansion was slower than in the previous year. Their new report, "Small Business and Micro Business Lending in the United States for Data Years 2007-2008," gives a detailed account of small-business lending overall, plus state-by-state totals and totals for individual lenders. The full study, including expanded state-by-state tables, is available online at:

The U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, the "small-business watchdog" of the federal government, examines the role and status of small business in the economy and independently represents the views of small business to federal agencies, Congress, and the President. It is the source for small-business statistics presented in user-friendly formats, and funds research into small-business issues. [May 26, SBA Office of Advocacy]

* * *

"Ensuring that every American has access to broadband services is an important policy goal for the new Administration. With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress and the Administration directed a number of federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission [FCC], to work toward this goal...

"Because small businesses are the heart of the American economy, they are critical to driving an economic recovery. However, access to modern technologies, including broadband, is critical to allow small businesses to grow. At the same time, small broadband providers will supply the competition and innovation necessary to expand advanced telecommunications services to all Americans. The Office of Advocacy will continue to play a leading role in ensuring that the needs of all small businesses are represented in the federal government throughout this process." -- Shawne McGibbon, acting chief counsel for SBA's Office of Advocacy, reporting that the FCC has launched a 13-month effort to develop a national broadband strategy to be presented to Congress by Feb. 17, 2010 [May 27, "Got Broadband? A National Broadband Strategy for Small Business," The Small Business Advocate]

* * *

“The SBA’s plan to offer floor-plan loans to America’s dealerships will help small businesses stay open in this uncertain economy... These loans will enable dealerships to maintain their inventory and save jobs. The provisions that the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee secured in the Recovery Act will also make floor-plan financing more affordable by eliminating borrower fees on the loans. This is another critical step toward increasing access to capital for America’s small businesses.” -- Sens. Mary Landrieu [D-La.] and Olympia Snowe [R-Maine], chair and ranking member, respectively, of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, commenting on the SBA's announcement that the agency will waive its floor-plan lending prohibition that is currently part of the 7[a] loan guarantee program.

The policy change will allow the SBA to guarantee up to 75 percent of floor-plan loans to dealerships to purchase cars, RVs, manufactured homes, boats and motorcycles. Floor-plan loans will be available for a minimum of $500,000 up to the $2 million allowable under the 7[a] program, and have a maximum repayment term of five years.

Floor-plan financing is a line of credit that allows dealers to borrow against their inventory, and then repay that debt as they sell their inventory or borrow against the line of credit again to add new inventory. Under the new program, the SBA will provide loan guarantees for lines of credit through its 7[a] program. These loans will be made through SBA lenders only for titled inventory. The pilot program will begin July 1 and will be available through Sept. 30, 2010, at which time the SBA will make the determination of whether or not to extend the program. [May 28, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship]

* * *

“I am pleased to have Clara Pratte joining our team at the SBA in this vital post... Clara’s background and experience will be an asset as we strengthen our efforts at the SBA to support the growth and development of small businesses and the economic opportunities they provide for Native Americans.” -- SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills announcing the appointment of Clara Pratte as national director for the agency’s Office of Native American Affairs.

As national director, Pratte will help to ensure that American Indians, Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians seeking to create, develop and expand small businesses have full access to the necessary tools available through the SBA’s entrepreneurial development, lending and procurement programs. [May 29, U.S. Small Business Administration]

* * *

"[The President] committed to protect the Internet from those who would sacrifice the openness and freedom of the Internet for their own parochial interests when he said he 'remained firmly committed to net neutrality'... This makes sense in an announcement on the nation’s cyber infrastructure, because having Internet traffic content neutral is what everyone -- from the small-business owners to venture capitalists Obama mentioned in his speech -- rely on daily to do their jobs.” -- Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, after President Barack Obama announced that he will soon name a national cybersecurity coordinator to protect America's communications and information infrastructure, and that the government is going to start treating the nation's digital infrastructure, broadband networks and computers as strategic national assets that should be "open and free." [May 29, "Obama Committed to Network Neutrality," Broadcasting & Cable]

SOURCES: Broadcasting & Cable,, The Small Business Advocate, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, U.S. Small Business Administration, The White House [photo]

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