Starting in 2016, push comes to shove for small businesses under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. As of January 1, small businesses, broadly defined as firms with 50 to 100 full-time employees, must comply with the ACA’s employer mandate and provide qualified health insurance to their workers or face stiff penalties. But this requirement poses a big threat to the financial stability of small employers—and not for the reasons you might think.
Obamacare includes a myriad of regulatory incentives and exemptions that define the parameters of the employer mandate. However, these have inadvertent consequences. Most important, exemptions in the ACA encourage small firms to self-finance their health care plans—that is, pay their workers’ health care bills directly, rather than covering them through a traditional insurance policy. Most large companies in America (above 3,000 employees) engage in self-funding, but that is done now by only about 16% of small companies of between 50 and 100 employees. According to my research, that number is set to rise.
It’s understandable that small companies see self-funding as the superior option. By financing their own health care plans, they stay exempt from the community rating requirements that restrict how much insurers may vary premiums based on factors like age and smoking status; they also stay exempt from the federal and state taxes on most health care premiums that are paid to traditional insurers.
If you wanted to hack a business, which one would you pick: A Fortune 500 company with a large digital-security budget and a team dedicated to protecting its cyberassets? Or a small enterprise that doesn’t employ a single IT security specialist? Of course hackers are equal-opportunity criminals, but you get my point.
Security breaches at big companies such as J.P. Morgan,Sony and Home Depotdominate the headlines, but safety measures are crucial for organizations of all shapes and sizes. According to the 2012 Verizon Data Breach Report, 71% of cyberattacks occur at businesses with fewer than 100 employees. The average cost of a data breach for those small businesses is $36,000.
We can no longer assume that hackers are solitary figures sitting in basements fiddling with their laptops. They may be members of organized-crime groups or employed by nation states, and they have resources that can destabilize entire companies and countries. These hackers constantly look for Internet vulnerabilities. They break through firewalls, infect machines, and use phishing schemes to gain access through emails to people’s passwords and Social Security numbers. They can then leverage weaknesses in applications to cause a database to output its contents.
So what can the owner of a small business do to defend himself? Here are some tips.
A few years ago I was working with a small consulting firm, and one of our up and coming salespeople left for a competitor. No big deal. It happens. But several months later, the management team noticed a disturbing trend. The company kept losing bids for new business to this very same competitor. It had happened four times in a row when finally we realized that we’d forgotten to turn off the former employee’s network access. He had been logging into our network, stealing our information, and then undercutting us. Read More »
We heard the presidential candidates discuss their views again Tuesday night, and it is clear that they agree on at least one thing: jobs and job creation policies are critical to the future of the economy. Yet like many politicians, policy makers, and pundits, the candidates continue to gloss over what both men certainly know to be true: Not all jobs are created equal.
Based on our work at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, we see two clear and distinct routes to new job creation.
MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Bill Aulet
There are small- and medium-sized companies created to offer traditional goods and services to a local or regional market. Think “mom and pop” operations. They include your yoga studio and the pizza place down the street. While valuable to the economy in general, these companies are not large enough to serve as a growth engine for the entire economy. They do, however, offer important opportunities for employment and provide valuable services. Read More »