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Small biz owners' top 2014 concern? Health insurance

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What’s on the mind of the small-to-medium sized business owner when asked to forecast business conditions in 2014? Health coverage, above all else.

Research by Principal Financial drew a picture of these business owners as fairly optimistic about 2014, but concerned about health insurance. Asked to rank what they felt would be the issues that would have the greatest effect on their businesses next year, 36 percent listed either health care costs or health care reform as the No. 1 factor. Second? The impact of economic growth on their business.

Principal found that about a third of the business owners are feeling optimistic about business conditions overall for 2014, and 55 percent said they thought their financials would be better a year from now as the economy continues to rebound.

They aren’t spending much yet in anticipation of more business, however. While two-thirds said they have surplus capital, three-quarters said they’re keeping their powder dry until they’re convinced they need to start spending on their businesses again.

While last year 42 percent told Principal they planned to add to their staff, now, just 35 percent see themselves hiring in the next year.

They survey delved further into the health coverage issue. Asked about healthcare reform, three-quarters reported that they completely understand or understand some parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Asked what actions they were planning to take as healthcare reform kicks in, here are some of the responses:

  • Take no action: 17 percent
  • Don’t know what action they will take: 20 percent
  • Plan to keep their workforce under 50 employees: 22 percent
  • Will start offering health care benefits: 8 percent.

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