SMALL BUSINESS HEALTH CARE
On April 2, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Norm Coleman, R-Minn., introduced S 2795, designed to make health insurance more affordable, predictable and accessible for small businesses with up to 100 employees and the self-employed. It offers tax incentives to encourage states to transform poorly functioning small group insurance markets and supports the development of state purchasing pools. In the House, a similar bill (HR 6210) was introduced on June 10.
The Small Business Health Plans Coalition, of which the AICPA is a member, supports this bill because it contains many of the principles necessary to help small businesses find and afford health care. Because of the bipartisan sponsorship, we are hopeful this legislation will be actively considered this year.
On Jan. 23, the House Small Business Committee held a hearing on the difficulties small businesses have in obtaining, maintaining and managing health insurance for employees. The AICPA was invited to testify. Lee Groza, an AICPA member from Kentucky and president of the Kentucky Society of CPAs, testified on behalf of the profession. He testified both about the problems small CPA firms have in getting and managing insurance, and also about the association health plan offered through the Kentucky Society.
It was a sympathetic hearing, with Chairwoman Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., and Ranking Member Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, as well as the other committee members, all sharing the goal of providing improved access for the small business market. The committee heard from five small business owners, representing a variety of industries and locations that have struggled with gaining access to, affording and maintaining health insurance for employees.
Groza illustrated how his experience clearly shows that competition is the key to lower premiums. Allowing for pooling across state lines would clearly increase competition. This fact underscores the need for the Small Business Health Plans (also known as “Association Health Plans”) legislation we are supporting.
At the hearing, Velazquez noted that, while she doesn’t expect legislative reform to be accomplished this year, this series of hearings lay important groundwork for the next Congress.