SMALL BUSINESS AND HEALTH CARE -- (House of Representatives - July 12, 2005)
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Georgia for his leadership on this issue. He certainly brings a wonderful perspective to our body as he leads in the discussion of small businesses and health. I think most people know that small town physicians, that is a small business, and working with small business employers, he understands so readily how employers truly desire to provide great benefits for their employees. Mr. Speaker, I think most small business employers feel like their employees are family. They want to be certain that they have got the best of everything, the best of opportunity, the best of health care, the best work environment, because they treasure having those individuals work with them. Most small business owners understand, too, that it is important that employees be happy and content in their work environment, that they stay with you, because one of the greatest expenses is having to train a new employee, having to help them learn the ropes, learn the skills, come up to speed to fill that role. They also know that good health care is important because of time lost from work. That is very expensive. That means an employer, if he has an employee who is sick, who has not had access to good preventative health care, then what happens? He has to go hire a temporary employee to fill that job. So small business employers understand the importance of creating a good comprehensive work environment and the importance of appropriate health care and health coverage for employees.
I cannot go any further talking about a small business without first having a couple of things to say about this economic engine and what a lot of these small business employers are able to do. We are averaging 146,000 new jobs a month. Unemployment is at near historic lows. We are just above 5 percent on unemployment. What that tells us is that the small business sector is working, that with new ideas and new innovations and lower taxes and with the focus on lessening regulation like we have done this very week, this very day right here in this House as we have looked at OSHA regulations and found ways, we passed four bills, finding a way to help make OSHA and the rules and the regulations less burdensome to small businesses. So it is wonderful that during this small business week, we have our legislative attention focused on what we do, not to create jobs, what we do not to strap down business, but what we do to create the type environment in this Nation that small business and free enterprise can do what they do best, that is, create jobs, be the economic engine for this great Nation.
I commend our leadership here in the House for continuing to work on these issues and put this focus on small businesses, whether it is through an energy bill or through the death tax repeal or class action fairness or bankruptcy or jobs training improvement. All of that affects small business, much the same way as health care affects small business and its employees.
There are just a couple of other quick points that I would like to add. Looking at health care and the viability of health care for small business is not new. This is not something that is on the plate for the first time in the 109th Congress. This is an issue that our leadership has been focused on for many years.
One provision that was on the table for quite a while and finally was passed in the 108th Congress is health savings accounts; and for small businesses that are seeking to find an affordable way to continue or to give health choices for their employees, the health savings accounts are a wonderful alternative.
And, Mr. Speaker, one of the things that has come to mind that we have seen with the past year, with the advent of health savings accounts, more than 1 million Americans have chosen this as an option because it is a way for them to save, to set aside, and a way for them to begin looking to expanding their health care dollar, being certain that they have that health care dollar where they are getting basically the most bang for their buck. And I certainly think that it is to our credit that this option was made available to the American people last year, and I commend our leadership for that.
Another bill that this House has passed, and we certainly are looking forward to the same type of success with, is association health plans. These are basically small business health plans that we talk about in my district, because it will allow businesses to group together in their associations, of different types, whether they are small business manufacturers or maybe marketing companies or some of the high-tech companies, but group together and pool their buying power so that they can have group policies for their employees and will be able to do it more affordably.
So association health plans will be another great addition, putting a little bit more of that private sector expertise back in there to get the cost of health care down so that it is more affordable for our small business employers.
I want to thank the gentleman from Georgia again for allowing me to come in and participate as we talk about small businesses, keeping them healthy, keeping them vibrant, and also having health care affordable and available for their employees. I thank him for the leadership.
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