Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Report Highlights Specifics of How Health Insurance Reform Will Reduce Costs for Small Businesses

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [pictured] today released a new report, "Lower Premiums, Stronger Businesses: How Health Insurance Reform Will Bring Down Costs for Small Businesses." The report outlines the many ways in which health insurance reform will lower health care costs for small businesses, and is available now at [].

"Small businesses drive our economy and create jobs, but they are struggling as health care costs continue to rise," Secretary Sebelius said. "The high cost of care is making it difficult or impossible for these businesses to offer care or grow their business. Health insurance reform will bring costs down and give small businesses the relief they need."

The report notes:

* Small businesses, the backbone of job creation in our economy, are disproportionately burdened by the financial strains caused by rising health care costs. On average, small businesses pay up to 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance policy. This difference is due, in part, to high broker fees [which can be up to 10 percent of premiums] and health plan administrative costs that are three times those in the large-group market.

* In a recent national survey, nearly three-quarters of small businesses that did not offer benefits cited high premiums as the reason.

* Nearly half of workers covered by a small-business employer have insurance that limits the total amount that the plan will pay for medical care, and nearly one in 10 small-business workers have a health plan that does not offer prescription drug coverage.

* Workers in small firms are more likely to shoulder burdensome out-of-pocket health care costs. Thirty-six percent spent more than 10 percent of their household income on out-of-pocket medical expenses in 2007, compared with 27 percent of workers in larger firms.

Health insurance reform will bring down costs for small businesses by creating a health insurance exchange; providing a small-business tax credit; ending the "hidden tax" on small businesses that provide health insurance; and preventing arbitrary premium hikes. Reform will also ensure that Americans have stable, secure insurance coverage, limit out-of-pocket spending, and eliminate caps on benefits.

To learn more about how health insurance reform will benefit small businesses and read the complete report, visit

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

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

President Obama: Small Business Must Be at Forefront of the Recovery

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama spoke of how important small businesses are to the economy and described the steps his administration is taking to support them.

Health insurance reform will allow small businesses to purchase insurance for their employees through exchanges -- which will increase the quality of coverage while lowering the costs -- and reform will provide tax credits to those businesses.

To free up credit, the President called on Congress to increase the size of various SBA loans, and he announced that the administration will be making more credit available to the small local and community banks that many small businesses depend on.

Following, are President Obama's remarks:

* * *

All across America -- even today, on a Saturday -- millions of Americans are hard at work. They're running the mom-and-pop stores and neighborhood restaurants we know and love. They're building tiny startups with big ideas that could revolutionize an industry -- maybe even transform our economy. They are the more than half of all Americans who work at a small business, or own a small business. And they embody the spirit of possibility, the relentless work ethic, and the hope for something better that is at the heart of the American Dream.

They also represent a segment of our economy that has been hard-hit by this recession. Over the past couple of years, small businesses have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Many have struggled to get the loans they need to finance their inventories and make payroll. Many entrepreneurs can’t get financing to start a small business in the first place. And many more are discouraged from even trying because of the crushing costs of health care -- costs that have forced too many small businesses to cut benefits, shed jobs, or shut their doors for good.

Small businesses have always been the engine of our economy -- creating 65 percent of all new jobs over the past decade and-a-half -- and they must be at the forefront of our recovery. That’s why the Recovery Act was designed to help small businesses expand and create jobs. It’s provided $5 billion worth of tax relief, as well as temporarily reducing or eliminating fees on SBA loans and guaranteeing some of these loans up to 90 percent, which has supported nearly $13 billion in new lending to more than 33,000 businesses.

In addition, our health reform plan will allow small businesses to buy insurance for their employees through an insurance exchange, which may offer better coverage at lower costs -- and we’ll provide tax credits for those that choose to do so.

And this past week, I called on Congress to increase the maximum size of various SBA loans, so that more small-business owners can set up shop and grow their operations.

I also announced that we’ll be taking additional steps through our Financial Stability Plan to make more credit available to the small local and community banks that so many small businesses depend on -- the banks who know their borrowers, who gave them their first loan and watched them grow. The goal here is to get credit where it’s needed most -- to businesses that support families, sustain communities, and create the jobs that power our economy.

That’s why we enacted the Financial Stability Plan in the first place, back when many of our largest banks were on the verge of collapse. Our credit markets were frozen, and it was nearly impossible for ordinary people to get loans to buy a car or home or pay for college. The idea was to jump-start lending and keep our economy from spiraling into a depression.

Fortunately, it worked. Thanks to the American taxpayers, we’ve now achieved the stability we need to get our economy moving forward again.

But, while credit may be more available for large businesses, too many small-business owners are still struggling to get the credit they need. These are the very taxpayers who stood by America’s banks in a crisis.

And now it’s time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses, and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations, and create new jobs. It’s time for those banks to fulfill their responsibility to help ensure a wider recovery, a more secure system, and more broadly shared prosperity.

And we’re going to take every appropriate step to encourage them to meet those responsibilities. Because if it’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that here in America, we rise and fall together. Our economy, as a whole, can’t move ahead if small businesses and the middle class continue to fall behind.

This country was built by dreamers. They’re the workers who took a chance on their desire to be their own boss. The part-time inventors who became the full-time entrepreneurs. The men and women who have helped build the American middle class, keeping alive that most American of ideals – that all things are possible for all people, and we’re limited only by the size of our dreams and our willingness to work for them.

We need to do everything we can to ensure that they can keep taking those risks, acting on those dreams, and building the enterprises that fuel our economy and make us who we are.


* * *

The full video of President Obama's weekly address can be viewed online at:

SOURCE: The White House

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

President Obama Announces New Small-Business Lending Initiatives

This afternoon, President Barack Obama [pictured above with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and SBA Administrator Karen Mills], announced his proposal to boost lending support of small businesses, so as to promote even further business expansion and job creation.

Speaking from Metropolitan Archives, a small records-storage business based in Landover, Md., President Obama reflected on the heretofore impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; outlined specifics of his proposed lending initiatives; and provided a sneak preview of a small-biz-focused conference that Geithner and Mills will convene in the near future.

"Over the past decade and a half, America's small businesses have created 65 percent of all new jobs in the country," Obama noted. "And more than half of all Americans working in the private sector are either employed by a small business or own one -- more than half. These companies are the engine of job growth in America. They fuel our prosperity. And that's why they have to be at the forefront of our recovery.

"The problem is, our small businesses have been some of the hardest hit by this recession. From the middle of 2007 through the end of 2008, small businesses lost 2.4 million jobs. And, because banks shrunk from lending in the midst of the financial crisis, it's been difficult for entrepreneurs to take out the loans they need to start a business. For those who do own a small business, it's been difficult to finance inventories and make payroll, or expand if things are going well.

"And that's why we made sure the Recovery Act focused on helping small businesses expand and create jobs. In it, we temporarily reduced or eliminated fees on SBA loans -- loans that give small businesses more money to reinvest in their own futures. And we guaranteed some of these loans by up to 90 percent, which has given local banks and credit unions the confidence they need to lend.

"In the last eight months, these steps have made a real difference for small businesses across America. So far, the Recovery Act has supported over 33,000 loans to small businesses that have already helped save or create nearly tens of thousands of jobs -- nearly $13 billion in new lending -- $13 billion. And more than 1,200 banks and credit unions that had stopped issuing SBA loans when the financial crisis hit are lending again today. And more than $4.3 billion in federal contracts are now going to small businesses.

"We're also providing tax relief to small businesses under the Recovery Act -- relief that will give these businesses back over $5 billion this year. And we're giving tax cuts directly to 95 percent of working Americans, which includes the vast majority of small-business owners and their employees.

"So there's no question that our Recovery Act has given a boost to every American who works at a small business, or owns one, or aspires to own one. There's no question that the steps we've taken have improved the overall climate for small business across the country.

"But there's also no question that we've got a long way to go. There's still too little credit flowing to our small businesses. There's still too many entrepreneurs who can't get the loans they need to open up their doors and start hiring. There's still too many who are struggling to make payroll and to stay open. And there's still too many successful small businesses that want to expand further and hire more but just don't have the capital to do it."

Specifically, President Obama called for:

* Increasing the size of SBA’s 7[a] loan from $2 million to $5 million;

* Increasing the size of SBA’s 504 loan from $2 million to $5 million for standard borrowers [supporting a total project of $12.5 million], and from $4 million to $5.5 million for manufacturers [supporting a total project of $13.75 million]; and

* Increasing the size of SBA’s Microloan from $35,000 to $50,000.

"Finally," President Obama added, "I've asked Tim Geithner and Karen Mills to convene a conference in the coming weeks that will bring together regulators, congressional leaders, lenders and small businesses to determine what additional steps we can take to get credit flowing to small businesses that want to expand and create more jobs.

"Of all the steps we're taking to move this economy from recession to recovery, I continue to believe that the success of our small businesses will be a foundation upon which our future prosperity is built. So we will continue to do whatever we can to help these businesses grow and thrive. And I'm confident that the steps we announced today will do that for small-business owners across the country -- men and women we hear from every day."

Administrator Mills Comments on President Obama’s Proposal to Raise SBA Loan Limits
Following President Obama's announcement to raise the maximum loan size for SBA-backed loans to small business, SBA Administrator Mills issued the following statement:

"America’s 29 million small businesses have been hard-hit in this recession. Nine months ago, President Obama sent small businesses a lifeline: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Since then, the SBA has supported more than 33,000 loans for a total of almost $13 billion in small-business lending. This has helped save or create tens of thousands of jobs.

"But there is much more work to be done, which is why President Obama today pledged his support for legislation that would increase the maximum size of some SBA loans. Increasing maximum loan sizes will allow the SBA to ensure that more small-business owners and entrepreneurs can get access to the credit they need to expand their operations and create jobs.

"The President also announced additional support from the Treasury Department for smaller community lenders that are committed to increasing their lending to small businesses. Secretary Geithner and I will host a conference on small-business lending with members of Congress, regulators, lenders and the small-business community. The conference will discuss additional efforts that can be taken to provide small businesses with access to credit. These steps, coupled with SBA’s ongoing efforts, will help small businesses grow and create jobs throughout America."

Rep. Velázquez Applauds, Looks Forward to "Swiftly Moving" Small-Business Lending Legislation
Shortly after President Obama's speech, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez [D-NY], chairwoman of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, commented on the Administration's plan for helping small businesses access credit:

"I applaud the President for reaffirming his support for our nation's small businesses and recognizing their importance to the economic recovery. With the Administration's March announcement, and again today, the President has made clear that he is committed to getting entrepreneurs the help that they need. As the Administration refines the details of this plan, I am sure they will closely consult lenders, the small-business community and Congress, and I look forward to participating in that dialogue.

"In working to increase access to capital, it is important to pursue policies that will open doors for, and enhance the opportunities, of small firms. Duplicating existing programs or instilling initiatives that only benefit the lenders does nothing to help grow our economy.

"The ultimate goal is to get affordable capital into the hands of small businesses. That is why the Committee today approved bipartisan legislation to comprehensively modernize the SBA's capital-access initiatives. This bill is expected to support $44 billion in small-business lending every year, helping to save or create 1.3 million jobs annually. I look forward to swiftly moving this legislation through the House and working with my colleagues to get this bill to the President for his signature."

To view the video of President Obama's speech, go to:

The full text of President Obama's remarks can be found here:

A fact sheet on President Obama's proposal to increase SBA loan size can be found at:

A fact sheet on's Small Business and Community Lending Initiative, titled "Unlocking Credit for Small Businesses," is available at:

To track Recovery Act-related developments, go to:

For information about federal contracting opportunities, go to:

SOURCES: U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. House Committee on Small Business, U.S. Small Business Administration, White House [photo by Pete Souza]

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sebelius, Mills Release New Report, 'Insurance at Risk: Small Business Employees Risk Losing Coverage'

Secretary of Health and Human Services [HHS] Kathleen Sebelius [pictured] and Small Business Administration [SBA] Administrator Karen Mills today released a new report, "Insurance at Risk: Small Business Employees Risk Losing Coverage."

The report examines the health-care status quo that has left employees at risk of losing their insurance, and underscores the financial difficulties small businesses face when providing health insurance to their employees. The complete report, along with a list of sources cited, is available now at

"More Americans who work for a small business have lost their health insurance coverage, and those who still have coverage have seen their costs go up," said Sebelius. "Health insurance reform will drive costs down and make it easier for small-business owners to give their employees the quality coverage they need."

"The cost of health insurance is the No. 1 concern of small-business owners," Mills noted. "On average, small businesses pay 18 percent more than big businesses for the same health insurance policy. This has left small-business owners in an untenable situation, having to choose between their employees -- who are often like family to them -- and the bottom line. Health care reform will provide small-business owners with greater access to the affordable, quality coverage they want and need for themselves and their employees."

The new report notes:

* Employees of small businesses are 50 percent more likely to lose coverage as workers at large businesses. Half of workers in small firms that do not offer health benefits remain uninsured.

* Premiums for employer-based health insurance have more than doubled since 2000, rising three times faster than wages. As a result, fewer small businesses provide coverage for their employees. In 2000, 57 percent of firms employing fewer than 10 workers provided coverage. In 2009, only 46 percent of similar-sized firms provided coverage.

* In one national survey, nearly three-quarters of small businesses that did not offer benefits cited high premiums as the reason; and, on average, small businesses pay up to 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance policy. This is due, in part, to high broker fees [which can be up to 10 percent of premiums] and health plan administrative costs that are three to four times those in the large-group market.

Health insurance reform will stabilize health insurance coverage for Americans who work for small businesses, and provide small businesses with tax credits to help them provide health insurance for their employees. This will make health care more affordable for small businesses and their workers, solidifying and strengthening employer-based coverage for years to come.

Health insurance reform will also create a health insurance exchange, so that Americans without access to affordable insurance on the job can compare prices and health plans, and decide which quality affordable option is right for them. The exchange will also significantly reduce administrative costs for small businesses by enabling them to easily and simply compare the prices, benefits, and performance of health plans.

To learn how the current system has failed millions of Americans, and what President Obama’s Administration is doing to work with Congress to enact comprehensive health reform this year, check out these Web-based resources:

* Online Series on Health Reform:

* White House Reports on Health Reform:

* Health Insurance Reform Reality Check:

* Video: "Reform Will Benefit Small Business -- Not Burden It":

* How Health Insurance Reform Will Help Small Business:

* Council of Economic Advisers Report, "The Economic Effects of Health Care Reform on Small Businesses and Their Employees":

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Small Business Administration, White House

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials; Changes Affect Bloggers, Testimonial Advertisements, Celebrity Endorsements

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act.

The main thrust of the 81-page document, "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising" occurs in a statement on page 75, which reads: "When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement [i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience], such connection must be fully disclosed."

The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising," which address endorsements by bloggers, consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides, which become effective on Dec. 1, 2009, were last updated in 1980.

Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical, when that is not the case, will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides -- which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial, as long as they included a disclaimer such as "results not typical" -- the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the longstanding principle that "material connections" [sometimes payments or free products] between advertisers and endorsers -- connections that consumers would not expect -- must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other "word-of-mouth" marketers.

The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement -- like any other advertisement -- is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.

Celebrity endorsers also are addressed in the revised Guides. While the 1980 Guides did not explicitly state that endorsers, as well as advertisers, could be liable under the FTC Act for statements they make in an endorsement, the revised Guides reflect Commission case law and clearly state that both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement -- or for failure to disclose material connections between the advertiser and endorsers. The revised Guides also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law, intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.

The Commission vote approving issuance of the Federal Register notice detailing the changes was 4-0. The notice will be published in the Federal Register shortly, and is available now on the FTC’s website as a link to this press release. Copies also are available from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices, and to provide information to help spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP [1-877-382-4357]. The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

SOURCE: Federal Trade Commission

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Help Support Breast Cancer Awareness; Be a Part of the World Pink Mosaic

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Join the Estée Lauder Companies' 2009 Breast Cancer Awareness campaign by spreading the word about the World Pink Mosaic -- an online photo mosaic of breast cancer survivors and supporters, all united in their support for breast health and the desire for a world without breast cancer. One pink movement, thousands of stories.

* Users can take part by visiting any participating Estée Lauder brand sites during the month of October.

* Submissions will become part of a virtual tapestry that will take the shape of a giant Pink Ribbon.

* Individuals can then share their participation with friends and family by posting it to their social networking profiles, sending a link to Twitter, or e-mailing it anywhere in the world.

Upload your photo today to the World Pink Mosaic and support World Pink. A World Without Breast Cancer™.


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SOURCE: Origins Natural Resources Inc.

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