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August 26, 2004 8:47 AM CDT

Talent Urges Senate to Pass Small Business Health Care Plans


U.S. Senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.) today said a new report issued by the U.S. Senate Bureau showing another increase in the number of Americans without health insurance should embolden the Senate to pass legislation (S. 545) he has sponsored with U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to provide health insurance to millions of small business people and their employees at no cost to the taxpayer.

Sen. Talent's bill would create Association Health Plans (AHPs) which would allow small business people to join together nationally through their trade associations to purchase quality, affordable health insurance for themselves and their employees. According to CONSAD, a well-respected research firm, AHPs could, by conservative estimates, reduce the number of uninsured by 8.5 million.

"Here's what I hope people will understand about Association Health Plans," said Talent. "If you work for a small business or a farm, they will reduce the cost of your health insurance by up to 30 percent, they will provide health insurance to millions of people who don't have it and it won't cost the taxpayer anything."

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of Americans without health insurance rose to 45 million in 2003 ? a 1.4 million increase from 2002. Two-thirds of the uninsured either work for a small business, own a small business or are dependent on someone who works for or owns a small business.

AHPs would allow national trade associations, such as the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to sponsor the same quality health insurance currently offered by Fortune 500 companies, labor unions and the federal government, all regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor. Trade groups could then offer these national health care plans to their small business members, who could purchase health insurance for themselves and their employees.

President Bush is a longtime advocate for the health care plan and the U.S. House has passed the bill numerous times with strong bipartisan support.

The bill is gaining momentum in the Senate where the Task Force on Health Care Costs and the Uninsured, on which Talent serves, included AHPs in its recommendations. The legislation is supported by U.S. Senators Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), among others.

There are a few other proposals in the Senate aimed at reducing the number of uninsured that would arguably cost tens of millions of dollars to administer," Talent said. "AHPs would work better and cost the taxpayer nothing. Congress should pass this bipartisan health care reform for the largest segment of the uninsured. Association Health Plans is an idea whose time has come."

About the Author

Senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.) was elected to serve Missouri in the U.S. Senate in November 2002. Previously he served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1993-2001) and the Missouri House (1985-1992).


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