The 7th Congressional District, which I represent, lost more than 760 small businesses between 2001 and 2006, including more than 22% of the manufacturing industry. At the same time, health care premiums have increased faster for small businesses than their more established competitors while much needed credit has been shut off in frozen financial markets.
As Vice Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, I have made supporting small businesses one of my top priorities. Just yesterday I introduced the Small Business Lending Promotion Act, which expands a small business-lending program for women, minority and veteran entrepreneurs that currently faces caps on the volume and value of its loans. I have also made addressing the rising cost of health care for small businesses a priority.
Currently, small businesses face a hidden tax on health care, paying 18% more for health insurance than large employers, because they cannot effectively negotiate with large insurance companies. They are seeing their premiums skyrocket by nearly 10% a year on average and face a more volatile market due to their small size. As a result, fewer and fewer small businesses are offering health insurance. That is why, before marking up the Health Care bill in the Education and Labor Committee, I joined a bipartisan group of Representatives in calling for a health care reform bill that would lower costs for small businesses and millions of Americans they employ.