Snowe Calls for Bipartisan Agreement on Small Business Health Plans
Small Business Health Insurance
Citing a new Kaiser Family Foundation report that found the percentage of Americans covered by employer-sponsored health insurance has fallen from 69 percent to 61 percent since 2000, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R- Maine), chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today renewed her call for the Senate to pass bipartisan Small Business Health Plan (SBHP) legislation.
"Today's report from the Kaiser Family Foundation is yet another disturbing reminder that affordable health care insurance is beyond the reach of millions of American small businesses," said Sen. Snowe. "It is time for the Senate to finally reach a bipartisan agreement on Small Business Health Plans, which are a critically important step towards assisting small businesses as they strive to remain competitive with larger businesses that already have the freedom to offer affordable health insurance to their employees."
"SBHPs will inject competition into stagnant, dysfunctional small group insurance markets. The lack of competition has led to a dire situation for small businesses in Maine," continued Sen. Snowe. "Anthem Blue Cross now controls 63 percent of the small group market, which is up from 37 percent in 2002. And according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, small businesses have experienced an average annual premium increase of 15 percent, with an astounding 28 percent of Maine small businesses having reduced health benefits at their last insurance renewal."
"SBHP legislation will provide more options for small businesses when it comes to providing quality, affordable health insurance for their employees," stated Sen. Snowe. "To opponents of this approach I ask: What's wrong with competition? What's wrong with giving small businesses more choices when it comes to purchasing health insurance?"
"I strongly believe that SBHPs are an idea whose time has come, and I stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reach agreement on a bill that has the support necessary to pass and finally deliver relief to small businesses in Maine and across the country," concluded Sen. Snowe.
Sen. Snowe noted the Kaiser report found only 48 percent of businesses with less than ten employees are now able to offer health benefits to their employees. That's down from 57 percent in 2000. Other highlights of the report, Employer Health Benefits: 2006 Annual Survey, include:
- From 2005 to 2006, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose by 7.7 percent, an increase that far outpaced overall inflation (3.5 percent) and wage gains (3.8 percent).
- Since 2000, premiums for family coverage have increased by 87 percent.
- Sen. Snowe has introduced the "Small Business Health Fairness Act" (S. 406). It would allow small businesses to pool together in SBHPs to provide health insurance products that meet the specific needs of their members and their employees at significantly lower costs.
The report can be found at: http://www.kff.org