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The latest Discover Small Business Watch survey reveals today that more and more business owners--85 percent--are forgoing health insurance plans for their employees in the interest of cost savings. That number is up from 77 percent last year and 74 percent the year before.

Even among those survey respondents that do offer health insurance, 36 percent have considered dropping the benefit during the last year, according to Discover Small Business Watch.

According to today's report, "a third of small business owners say health care costs have a major impact on their ability to grow their business: 69 percent say that obtaining affordable health care for themselves and their employees is 'very' or 'somewhat' difficult ..."

Overall economic confidence among business owners surveyed decreased by 1.4 percentage points, with 17 percent saying conditions for their enterprises are improving, down from 21 percent a year ago. Slightly more than half (53 percent) of the participants stated, however, that they would not have to raise outside funds to stay afloat this year.

The last Discover Small Business Watch survey in October 2008 found business owners' economic confidence at low levels.