Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ranking Member of theSenate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today introduced the“Small Business Health Plans Act of 2008,” bipartisan legislation that would expandaccess to affordable health care by allowing small businesses and working families topool together and negotiate the health insurance plans they need at prices they can afford.“We need to do something – anything – about our nation’s health care crisis. Small businesses and working families are struggling to stay afloat amid rising healthcare costs, and it is past time for Congress to throw them a life preserver,” Enzi said.“Small business health plans are one step toward making sure that every American hasaccess to affordable health coverage.” Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) are original cosponsorsof the bill. Senator Nelson said: ““It is time to help the employees of the 20,000 smallbusinesses in Nebraska who cannot offer health insurance to their workers because of theprohibitive costs. Our plan would allow them to band together to increase theirpurchasing power and lower health insurance costs. I hope our legislation can move thisdebate forward to find the solutions which are past due.” Senator Gregg said: “The Small Business Health Plan introduced today, providescritical support for small businesses by allowing them to pool their resources together forgreater market clout and affordability. This bipartisan legislation gives hard workingsmall businesses and working families’ greater access to quality and affordable healthcare choices. I am proud to join Senators Enzi and Nelson in cosponsoring this muchneeded legislation which will help small businesses, our nation’s greatest job creator, toprovide flexibility in health care for their workers.” Enzi said that small business health plans (SBHPs) are a key part of hiscomprehensive health care reform bill, “10 Steps to Transform Health Care in America,”S. 1783, which builds on market-based solutions to ensure that every American hasaccess to affordable, quality health care. (For more information on S. 1783, please visitwww.enzi.senate.gov). “I broke my comprehensive bill down into steps that Congress can pass one at atime, knowing that each step alone could likely receive broad support,” Enzi said.“Congress could act on any one of these steps today, starting with small business healthplans, and see real results tomorrow to improve health care for all Americans. If we canpass every step, we can ensure affordable access to quality health care for everyAmerican.” SBHPs will allow business and trade associations to band their members togetheracross state lines and offer group health coverage to their employees. By banding groupsof small businesses together on a regional or national basis, SBHPs create real purchasingpower that small businesses could never have on their own. This purchasing power willallow them to negotiate for better prices and greater benefits. In 2006 independent actuaries found that the SBHP bill, as introduced in the 109thCongress, would not only stop the trend of annual increases in health insurance costs, butalso would actually reduce health insurance costs for small business by a net 12 percent,or about $1,000 per employee. It would also reduce the number of uninsured Americansby 8 percent – approximately 1 million people. A separate Congressional Budget Office(CBO) study found that the bill would reduce Medicaid federal and state expenditures by$1.8 billion over 10 years and trim the ranks of the nation’s working uninsured by600,000. “I am confident that if we work together, we can find an agreement on smallbusiness health plans and market-based pooling this year, and provide real relief forAmericans struggling to pay their health care costs,” Enzi said. “I always believe that wecan agree on 80 percent of the issues and on 80 percent of each issue, and if we can focuson that 80 percent, we can get results. I am going to keep working with my colleaguesand with stakeholders to find the 80 percent and reach an agreement on small businesshealth plans.” ####

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