Small Business Owners Use Their Stories to Educate Public on Health Care Reform

September 23 was an important day for health care–and an important day for small businesses. Exactly six months after the enactment of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA), September 23 was the date on which a range of new insurance protections took effect. Across the country, small business owners from The Main Street Alliance, NWFCO’s national alliance of state-based small business coalitions, took the opportunity to speak up about how the law will help them and their employees.

The new protections in PPACA–including a ban on retroactive cancellations of coverage after people fall ill, an end to pre-existing condition exclusions for children, and an end to lifetime coverage limits–are particularly important for insurance customers in the small group and individual markets, many of whom are small business owners, their employees, and the self-employed. To complement small business owners stories, MSA also created this fact sheet about the new protections taking effect on September 23.

Jim Houser, co-owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon and a leader with the Oregon Small Business Council, received a special invitation to a backyard gathering with  President Obama ((  and others who are benefiting from the health law in Falls Church, Virginia on September 22. Jim told the President how the new tax credits in the law will help roll his insurance premiums back to 2008 levels.

In Idaho, the Idaho Main Street Alliance hosted a press conference with local small business leaders and a special guest–Susan Johnson, the Regional Director for Region 10 of the Department of Health & Human Services–on the 23rd. The business owners talked about what they’re looking forward to in reform, and Director Johnson discussed the Patient’s Bill of Rights protections taking effect that day.

In Iowa, small business leaders in the Iowa Main Street Alliance participated in a forum with State Senator Jack Hatch. Chris Petersen, a family farmer from Clear Lake, told his story of having his coverage cancelled retroactively–a practice that is now against the law. Young entrepreneur Alexander Grgurich, 24 years old and owner of Foundry CoWorking in Des Moines, talked about how being able to go back onto his parents’ health coverage will give him the security to focus on building his business. In addition to good local press coverage, Chris was interviewed for NPR’s Morning Edition and Alexander gave an interview for a story in the Wall Street Journal.

In Illinois, MSA leader David Borris, owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, gave testimony to the Illinois Health Care Implementation Commission. David recapped the challenges he and other small business owners face with health insurance and presented the small business case for Illinois to implement a unified, robust health insurance exchange to maximize bargaining power, risk pooling, and administrative efficiencies for small businesses.

And in Montana, Montana Small Business Alliance leader Matt Hisel, co-director of Home Resource in Missoula, was quoted in a local NBC news story ((  sharing how the health care law will benefit his business and his employees.

All over the country, leaders in the Main Street Alliance network  used a wide range of opportunities to get the word out about the small business benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Jim Houser’s backyard gathering with the President may have had the most star power, but it’s the “boots on the ground” activities in states–press events with state lawmakers and administration officials in Iowa and Idaho, testimony to state commissions making important decisions on implementing the health law in Illinois, and taking the story straight to the media in Montana–that do the most to educate the public and help people recognize, through the stories of local small business owners in their own communities, the benefits of the new health care law.

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