Alexander Urges Legislative Action to Make Health Coverage More Affordable

Tells Bush of Tennessee Concerns at Event in Chattanooga

Posted on February 22, 2007

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander joined President Bush today in support of allowing individuals to deduct the cost of their health insurance premiums, as employers are allowed to do. “This inequity is among the most brazen in the entire U.S. tax code,” Alexander said. “The president has put forward a big idea that could save 80 percent of working Tennesseans an average of more than $3,000 in federal income and payroll taxes, which they then could use to buy health insurance. I hope the Senate will give this proposal the serious consideration it deserves.” Alexander also urged passage of legislation that would allow business and trade associations to band their members together and offer group health coverage on a national or regional basis in response to increased costs that are driving employers and families from comprehensive coverage. About 97 percent of companies in Tennessee are small business, Alexander said, and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 34 percent of Tennessee firms with fewer than 50 employees offer health insurance to their employees. In contrast, 95 percent of Tennessee firms with 50 employees or more do so. “Across the state, everywhere I go, at least one small businessman or woman will stop me and say ‘We cannot afford the cost of health care, and we need help’. Fortunately, we have drafted legislation to create Small Business Health Plans that would help a great deal, if only Congress can get it passed.” The Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act would promote lower costs and greater access to health insurance by: •Permitting the creation of fully insured “Small Business Health Plans”; •Creating more options in benefit design, and; •Harmonizing insurance regulations across state lines while keeping states as the primary regulators.