Obama Fuzzy on 'Small Business' Exemption

ABC News' Gregory Wallace and Teddy Davis Report: What constitutes a "small business?" Barack Obama's campaign won't talk details.

The reticence on this issue matters because the presumptive Democratic nominee has promised that "small businesses" will be exempted from a health-care mandate facing other businesses. Under Obama's health plan, businesses over an unspecified size would have to either make a "meaningful contribution" to their employees' health coverage or else pay an undefined percentage of payroll towards the costs of the national plan.

Obama has also promised "small businesses" that he would provide them with a refundable tax credit worth up to 50 percent of what they contribute towards their employees' health premiums. 

"We haven't put out a specific number," said Jason Furman, Obama's director of economic policy, when asked by ABC News to identify who would be covered by Obama's small business exemption and health-care tax credit.

Furman made his comments Monday while joining Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, D-N.Y., on an Obama campaign conference call with reporters. The intended purpose of the call was to argue that McCain's economic plan does not promote small business growth.

"The number would almost certainly be higher than ten employees," Furman added when asked if a recent non-partisan study by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center was correct in assuming that Obama would exempt "small businesses" with fewer than 10 employees from the pay-or-play system.

Obama has said that his tax credit for small businesses, and his partial tax credit for medium-sized businesses, would cost $6 billion per year.

Furman was asked on Monday's conference call how the campaign could know how much the tax credit would cost without knowing who would qualify for it.

"We looked at a range of estimates for plans that other people have done, but none of them are directly applicable to us, because of the interaction effects with our existing plan, so what we've said is that we'd want to work with Treasury to refine the details of the proposal and we'd want to work with members of Congress to develop the proposal in a way that they were satisfied with it as well," said Furman. "But based on what we've seen of other proposals out there, and taking into account how it would interact with our existing health plan, we're confident that it would be larger than -- it would be more than ten employees."

The Obama campaign has been consistent in saying that these details would be worked out through the legislative process

Beyond the proposed tax credit, Furman said Obama would help small businesses cope with the rising cost of health care through a reinsurance system that would pick up catastrophic health insurance costs as well as by giving small businesses the opportunity to buy into a National Health Insurance Exchange which would spread risk and lower costs.

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