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Government Affairs II

On the legislative front, our readers will be pleased to learn that the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 660, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2003. This legislation will make health insurance more affordable for small employers through Association Health Plans (AHPs).

With health insurance premiums increasing at alarming rates, small businesses need new options that will allow them to keep health insurance affordable and expand benefits for working families. The Small Business Health Fairness Act will accomplish this goal by allowing AHPs to utilize the same tools that corporate and labor union health plans use to keep coverage affordable. Through AHPs, small businesses will have greater bargaining power and administrative efficiencies, the option of self-funding, and greater flexibility to design benefit options that meet the needs of smaller companies.

An identical measure is pending in the U.S. Senate. That bill, S. 545, is sponsored by Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), and Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX). But in order to get the bill moving, it is essential that more Senate members either co-sponsor the bill or commit to supporting it when it comes to the floor for a final vote.

With the passage of such a bill, many MCAA members could save as much as 15 to 25 percent on their health insurance costs, while many others — for the first time — may be able to offer health insurance to their employees; we trust you'd agree that enactment of the Small Business Health Fairness Act should be a top priority.

If any of you would like to write your Senator to urge them to co-sponsor and support S. 545, please get in touch with me at (703) 671-4468. We'd be happy to fax a sample letter to you. Your interest in this matter will be greatly appreciated by the 42 million uninsured U.S. citizens.

Marian Marshall is director of MCAA's Government Affairs. She has over 25 years experience working with the Congress and Executive branches of the U.S. government and oversees all MCAA legislative, regulatory and political action activities.



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