Small Business Bulletin – 2/12/2005

Small Business Bulletin – 2/12/2005

The following issues are addressed in this edition of our newsletter:

Health Care:
Forums Held to Promote Solutions to Affordable Health Insurance/Care
Contract Lobbyist Added to Pursue Legislative Agenda
Georgia Seeks Small Business Chamber Input

Entrepreneurship:
Effort to Build Entrepreneur Friendly Communities Launched
Small Business Chamber Joins FastTracSC Coalition

Workers Compensation:
Judge Rules Against Department of Insurance (DOI) on Rate Increase Denial
DOI Effort to Block Small Business Chamber From Rate Hearing Rejected

-Health Care-
Forums Held to Promote Solutions to Affordable
Health Insurance/Care

Three health care forums were recently held around the state to promote possible solutions to the crisis small businesses face with affordable health insurance and health care. The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored the forums along with the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center, S.C. Association of Nonprofit Organizations and S.C. Fair Share.

Four approaches to addressing the problem were presented. All involved some form of public/private partnership and all would require legislative support.

· State Employee Insurance Plan Buy In
· Utilization of Community Health Centers
· Medicaid Expansion/Buy In
· Reducing the Cost of Re-Insurance for Carriers

A pilot project using federally qualified community health centers to provide affordable primary and preventative health care for workers of a small business is already underway. This effort is the result of a partnership between the Small Business Chamber and the S.C. Primary Health Care Association. A further explanation of this project and the other proposals is available by contacting the Small Business Chamber at (803) 252-5733 or sbchamber@scsbc.org.

-Health Care-
Contract Lobbyist Added to Pursue Legislative Agenda

The Small Business Chamber is beefing up its lobbying efforts this year on the health care issue. Ashley Smith of The Smith Group has been retained to work exclusively on the Small Business Chamber’s health care legislative agenda.

While specific legislation may not be introduced on each of the four proposals presented at the health care forums, the proposals that garner the most support will be actively pursued this session. One of those definitely will be the partnership between small businesses without health insurance and community health centers. State funding to increase the ability of these federally qualified health centers to provide their affordable services to the employees of small businesses will be sought.

-Health Care-
Georgia Seeks Small Business Chamber Input

Every state in the Union is facing the same small business crisis in the cost of health insurance and health care and some are turning to The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce for ideas. Already our innovative pilot project using community health centers has captured the attention of the federal agency responsible for administering funds for these centers. One northeastern state has already consulted the Small Business Chamber as to how the project operates and expects to follow South Carolina’s lead.

The Small Business Chamber’s president, Frank Knapp, recently was asked to meet with Georgia officials and organizations to share his expertise garnered from working closely on the health insurance issue for over four years. Specifically he shared information presented at the recent health care forums the Small Business Chamber co-sponsored. Attending the Georgia meeting were representatives of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the Georgia Small Business Development Center and the Georgia NFIB.

-Entrepreneurship-
Effort to Build Entrepreneur Friendly Communities Launched

The Small Business Chamber has taken the lead on encouraging the state to develop a strategy for small business economic development through building entrepreneur friendly communities. In November, the Small Business Chamber invited 11 other organizations to hear from the Director of Georgia’s Entrepreneur and Small Business Office.

Georgia has just completed the first year of its “Entrepreneur Friendly” program that was developed after state’s Department of Economic Development created the Entrepreneur and Small Business Office and formed the Georgia Entrepreneur and Small Business Coordinating Network. As part of this effort, Georgia changed the mission of seven existing state economic development field agents from helping communities recruit big business to focusing on growing entrepreneurs and small businesses.

As a result of Georgia’s new effort, 13 of the state’s counties have received the designation of “Entrepreneur Friendly” and 45 more are actively engaged in the program. One rural designated county has already seen a 20% growth rate with over 800 new jobs and more than 345,000 square feet of previously vacant space occupied by small business expansions and entrepreneurial start-up businesses.

All the organizations at the Small Business Chamber’s meeting in November were impressed with Georgia’s story and wanted to meet again and involve other organizations to continue the discussion of South Carolina pursuing a similar effort. Attending this meeting were representatives of Clemson University, University of South Carolina, S.C. Technical College System, Benedict College, S.C. Office of Small and Minority Business Assistance, S.C. Department of Commerce, S.C. Small Business Development Center, S.C. Minority Business Development Center, S.C. Council on Economic Competitiveness, S.C. Municipal Association, and The Corporation for Economic Opportunity.

The next meeting will be held later in January. Any organization involved with promoting entrepreneurship and small businesses wanting to attend the next meeting should contact the Small Business Chamber at (803) 252-5733 or sbchamber@scsbc.org.

-Entrepreneurship-
Small Business Chamber Joins FastTracSC Coalition

The Small Business Chamber is pleased to join the FastTracSC Coalition to help prepare entrepreneurs through the award-winning FastTrac training program. FastTracSC will be offering two 10-week programs, FastTrac® NewVenture™ and FastTrac® GrowthVenture™, and a half-day workshop, FastTrac® Listening to Your Business™. Both 10-week programs are comprehensive business training programs that address the needs of entrepreneurs refining and writing their business plans and seeking to grow sustainable high-impact companies. They combine one-on-one coaching, peer learning, guest speakers from the entrepreneurial, corporate, angel, venture capital, legal, and financial communities and comprehensive tools to help entrepreneurs produce solid business plans and strategies.

Programs will be offered in the cities of Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Clemson, Beaufort, Aiken and Rock Hill. For more information on the FastTracSC Coalition, FastTrac Programs or general questions, please go to the website at www.fasttracsc.org, send an email to info@fasttracsc.org or call 843-805-3042.

-Workers Compensation-
Judge Rules Against Department of Insurance on
Rate Increase Denial

The 32.9% proposed average increase for workers’ compensation rates in the voluntary market is back before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) filed a request for the rate increase on July 1, 2005 and the S.C. Department of Insurance (DOI) subsequently denied the rate increase on September 2. Four days later DOI filed a motion to dismiss the rate increase hearing matter already before the ALJ. The Small Business Chamber and others had earlier filed to intervene in these hearings.

However, on November 8, the ALJ ruled that DOI had not followed proper statutory provisions. Specifically, DOI failed to officially extend the time it had to make a ruling and thus missed the 60-day window the law requires the agency to make a ruling. These missteps by DOI have resulted in the ALJ finding that the original NCCI rate hike request has not been legally dismissed and that the court retains jurisdiction to have a hearing to be held in the near future.

-Workers Compensation-
DOI Effort to Block Small Business Chamber From Rate Hearing Rejected

If the DOI had its way, the Small Business Chamber and other affected parties would be prohibited from intervening in a contested workers compensation rate hearing. In its September 6 court filing, DOI argued that insureds and affected parties are only entitled to a “public” hearing prior to a DOI ruling on a workers compensation rate filing, not to be a full participant in an evidentiary contested hearing.

The Small Business Chamber and the S.C. Consumer Advocate filed arguments with the court saying that DOI was improperly attempting to limit insureds’ and affected parties’ statutory and due process rights since they are the ones to be most impacted by a proposed rate increase. The ALJ agreed with this position and the Small Business Chamber and the other intervenors will be full participants in the upcoming workers compensation hearing on the proposed 32.9% rate hike.