As we've documented again and again, perhaps most powerfully by the Council of Economic Advisers’ report in July, health insurance reform is as important for America's small businesses as it is for anybody. But as actual legislation makes its way towards the floors of the House and Senate, it's good to look again at all of the issues surrounding reform, which is why HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and SBA Administrator Karen Mills will hold a briefing today to give a legislative update and discuss the impact of health reform on small businesses before taking questions from the group of business owners.
And as we so often do, we want to give you an opportunity to engage as well. Rebecca Adelman of HHS will be live-blogging the event, and you can also either watch it live here at WhiteHouse.gov, or watch, discuss it and ask questions through Facebook.
UPDATE 12:40: Administrator Karen Mills focuses her remarks on the real trouble many small business owners are in as they struggle to provide insurance to their employees. "We have extraordinary entrepreneurs in our country," she says. "But maybe you can't leave your employer, because how will you afford an individual policy?" She said she recently spoke to one small business owner who told her that she had been in business three years before she could provide health insurance to her employees. Only then, did she consider her business a success. Last week in this room, Administrator Mills said, the President addressed what was at stake in the health reform debate. His answer? That this country is a place where the only limits are your dreams.
UPDATE 12:34: Secretary Sebelius says we are closer to achieving reform than ever before. She closes with this key point: These problems are not getting better. They are getting worse. And they are going to keep getting worse until we do something about it. The Secretary receives loud applause from the group of small business owners. Next up to address the group is Rick Poore, a small business owner from Nebraska.
UPDATE 12:25: Rebecca Adelman - Dr. Brantley introduces Secretary Sebelius, who opens her remarks by saying that when we pass health insurance reform, it will become illegal to deny Americans coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Secretary Sebelius says as much as she enjoys talking with small business owners, her goal is that next time the group here today comes to Washington, they don't need to talk to her, because health care would no longer be on their list of biggest concerns. Small business owners, the Secretary said, should be focused on delivering a great product and meeting the needs of their customers - not worrying about health care.
UPDATE 12:12: Rebecca Adelman - "Running a business is not an easy task," Dr. Brantley says. "When there are changes in the economy, we feel them." He explains that his wife left her job to help him with his business, but soon afterward, his family lost their private insurance because of his wife's pre-existing condition: pregnancy. Many in the crowd nod in agreement when Mr. Brantley says. "I am living the American dream, but my dream has become a nightmare."
UPDATE 12:07: Rebecca Adelman - Over 100 small business owners are gathered in the South Court Auditorium for a briefing with the Director of the Office of Public Engagement Tina Tchen, Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills on health insurance reform. Tina Tchen welcomes the group of small business owners to the White House. She says we are all here today to discuss the urgent need for health reform. She introduces Dr. Ken Brantley, who runs an Optometry practice in Richmond, Virginia, to address the group.