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Action Alert: Senate to vote on small business health plans (SBHPs), April 2006

April 26, 2006

U.S. Senate to vote next week
on small-business health plans (SBHPs)

Urge your senator to support SBHPs today

Current situation:

After years of inaction, the U.S. Senate will vote on small-business health plans (SBHPs) — the new term for association health plans (AHPs). Debate will begin next week on S 1955, the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act, which would allow trade associations such as NRCA to offer health benefits to members nationally through SBHPs. NRCA strongly supports S 1955.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed such legislation eight times during the past decade, but next week will see the first vote ever in the Senate. It also could be the last vote should it fail. Next week's vote on S 1955 could be the final opportunity to get SBHPs enacted into law.

Opponents of S 1955 that favor disease-specific state benefit mandates are out in force on Capitol Hill leveling charges that SBHPs will not cover certain medical conditions. There is no basis for the allegations, but senators are being hit hard by these groups. This is why you must let your senators know you need greater access to affordable health insurance. Please contact your senators today to support S 1955.

Access to affordable health insurance continues to be a critical challenge for U.S. small businesses. Small-business employers face skyrocketing premiums with few options. Of the 27 million working people currently uninsured, 63 percent either are a small-business owner, an employee of a small business or a family member.

Help your business:

S 1955 would allow NRCA to establish an SBHP to offer health plans to its members across state lines irrespective of state mandates that drive up costs. NRCA and others also would have to offer an alternative health plan containing covered benefits offered in a state employee plan in one of the five most populous states; those states are California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. However, there is no limit to the number and variation of health plans an SBHP could offer and members could choose whichever plan best suits their needs. As an NRCA member, you would have more choices to obtain affordable, quality health benefits because of the following:
  • S 1955 would allow qualified trade associations such as NRCA to sell health benefit plans to members on a national or regional basis.
  • S 1955 would enable SBHPs to realize significant savings by being able to offer an array of standardized health plans across state lines regardless of state mandates.
  • The Council for Affordable Health Insurance finds that mandated benefits increase the cost of basic health coverage from a little less than 20 percent to more than 50 percent, depending on the state.
  • By joining together through SBHPs, small businesses would enjoy greater bargaining power, economies of scale and lower health-care administrative costs.
  • SBHPs would introduce competition in the small-business health-care market and reduce costs for small businesses by an estimated 12 percent to 30 percent annually.
What to do:
  • Call, fax or e-mail your two senators immediately, and urge them to vote for S 1955.
  • Let them know the importance of affordable health insurance for your company.
  • Relay "horror stories" regarding premium increases, denied coverage, etc.
  • Tell them you are not alone in watching how they vote on S 1955.
  • A "yes" vote is the correct vote — a "no" vote is a vote against small business.
  • Make it clear that failure to pass SBHP legislation would be detrimental to you, your small business, your employees and the U.S. economy.
To e-mail your senators, visit www.senate.gov and click on "Find Your Senators" in the upper right-hand corner. To telephone your senators, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and provide the name of the senator to be connected. If you wish to fax your message, fax numbers can be obtained by calling the senate office or NRCA's Washington, D.C., office at (800) 338-5765. Please contact both of your senators regardless of their political affiliation, because every vote is needed to get to 60 votes and prevent a filibuster!

For more information, contact Craig Brightup, NRCA's vice president of government relations, at (202) 546-7584 or cbrightup@nrca.net.

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