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U.S. Chamber Hails Measures for Health Care Solutions

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 7:00pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Chamber of Commerce welcomed evidence of growing bipartisan support for association health plans (AHPs) – which offer small businesses greater bargaining power, economies of scale, and administrative efficiencies under the same federal law governing health benefits for large corporations and unions.

"Seven times in the last nine years, lawmakers in the House have passed legislation to improve small business health care choices," said Kate Sullivan Hare, Chamber executive director of health care policy. "Today's introduction of Senate legislation following last week's introduction in the House completes the first step toward protecting small business workers and adding more coverage options, with no impact on federal spending."

The "Small Business Health Fairness Act" ensures only true associations can provide members coverage, prohibiting fly-by-night and undercapitalized health plans that have left workers with unpaid bills. Furthermore, sponsoring associations must comply with federal laws protecting workers with preexisting conditions and must offer coverage to all qualifying members on an equal basis.

The bill is unique among proposals in meeting a critical and growing need of smaller enterprises with employees in several states, according to the Chamber. Businesses with employees in multiple states, or those that desire to expand across state lines, must manage multiple health plans because they lack the resources to self-insure as larger businesses do.

"Greater competition among health insurance providers can reform the marketplace, provide more options, and cut costs for Main Street employers," said Sullivan Hare. "But if small employers continue to face unpredictable double-digit rate increases, they will be unable to remain competitive and contribute to the growth of the U.S. economy."

More than 45 million Americans lack health insurance, and approximately 60 percent of the uninsured are employed by small businesses or are the dependent of someone who is. Premiums in the small group insurance market can be 20 to 30 percent higher than those of large, self-insured companies, while administrative expenses account for 25 to 27 percent of small business premiums, compared to about 5 to 11 percent for large employer plans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.

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