Posted on March 15, 2006
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today applauded Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passage of legislation to help bring affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees in Tennessee and across the nation through small business health plans. The bill, introduced by HELP Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), now goes to the full Senate. The Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act (S. 1955) will allow business and trade associations to band their members together and offer group health coverage on a national or statewide basis in response to increased costs that are driving employers and families from comprehensive coverage. “The HELP Committee took a major step today toward making health insurance more affordable for Tennessee’s small business owners and working families,” Alexander said. “This bill would give small business owners the opportunity to choose the health plan that is best for their families and their employees.” Alexander noted that, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 33.9 percent of Tennessee firms with 50 or less employees offer health insurance to their employees. The bill will 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; Permitting more flexibility in premium rating, and; Harmonizing insurance regulations across state lines while keeping states as the primary regulators. A study prepared by the Milwaukee firm of Mercer Oliver Wyman, Inc. for the National Small Business Association found that the legislation would reduce health insurance costs for small businesses by 12 percent, about $1,000 per employer, and reduce the number of uninsured in working families by eight percent, or approximately one million people, nationwide.