NU Online News Service, May 25, 2004, 1:58 p.m. EDT – The members of a leading U.S. small business group are frantic about health insurance costs and other insurance costs. [@@]

When researchers working for the National Federation of Independent Business, Nashville, Tenn., asked 4,603 small business owners who belong to NFIB to rate 75 potential problems earlier this year, fewer than 10% of the participants called imports, interest rates, the minimum wage, environmental regulation, employee productivity or crime a “critical problem.”

But 66% of the participants called the cost of health insurance a critical problem, and that issue ranked first on the participants’ list of priorities.

The cost and availability of liability insurance ranked second on the list, and workers’ compensation insurance costs ranked third.

The highest-ranking non-insurance issue was the cost of gasoline.

Health care costs have topped the NFIB small business owner priority list since 1986, but the number of survey participants who call the issue critical has increased from just 47% in 2000, NFIB says.