May 18, 2001

Small Business Health Fairness Act' Will Help Working Families Find Affordable Health Plans

WASHINGTON — Senator Kit Bond today (Tuesday, May 15) said he is co-sponsoring the "Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2001," a bill that will help small businesses offer employees and their family members — including more than 25 million uninsured Americans living in a family headed by an employee of a small firm — affordable health care plans comparable to benefits routinely offered employees of large companies and unions.

"In today's health-care market, small businesses that want to provide insurance for their employees are at a competitive disadvantage. Often, the cost of insurance is so high that many small companies simply cannot afford it," Bond said Tuesday.

"Passing the `Small Business Health Fairness Act' will help give these employers access to affordable health care options through legitimate Association Health Plans (AHPs). It also will give small businesses a leg up to offer high-quality health benefits, which will help them attract and retain employees in today's competitive labor market."

The bill will help close the competitive gap between small enterprise and big businesses by enabling trade associations that represent small businesses to pool health insurance purchases for their members and spread the administrative costs among more working families. Purchasing coverage through AHPs also will reduce costs health insurers normally pass on to policyholders and their employers, thereby giving small enterprise greater bargaining power to negotiate lower rates.

"The best patient protection of all is access to affordable health care options," Bond said. "Yet, more than 43 million Americans currently have no coverage at all. About 60 percent of those uninsured have one thing in common: they are either self-employed or someone in their family is employed by a small business that cannot afford to provide health benefits. "Signing up for health care under an AHP will be less expensive and easier, prompting thousands of small businesses, which currently do not make health insurance available, to begin coverage. Moreover, it will enable small firms to choose from a wider range of health care options and offer the services their employees need most.

According to Bond, key provisions contained in the "Small Business Health Fairness Act," will:

— result in savings for small businesses, of potentially 10 percent or more;

— improve stability in health care rates through large group purchasing;

— expand employers' choices in designing a benefits package for employees;

— increase competition among health insurers vying to cover employees of small firms;

— reduce the insurer's overhead, which typically pushes health plan costs out of reach of most small businesses.

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