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Public Statements

Letter to Chairman of Education and Labor Committee Re: Small Business Fairness Act

Letter

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to Chairman of Education and Labor Committee Re: Small Business Fairness Act

Reasserts Need for Better Access to Affordable Healthcare for Small Businesses

Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today contacted House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman George Miller and Ranking Member Howard P. "Buck" McKeon requesting a hearing on legislation that would clear the way for greater small business access to affordable health care.

"Providing additional health care options for Montanans is a top priority for me," said Rehberg in a letter. "The Small Business Health Fairness Act allows associations to purchase group plans across state lines. By creating these small business health plans, which would be strictly regulated by the Department of Labor, small businesses could pool their resources and increase their bargaining power. This power will allow them to negotiate better rates and purchase quality health care at a lower cost."

The state of Montana has made several attempts at increasing healthcare access for Montana's small businesses. However, these attempts, such as Insure Montana, while helpful, still do not provide coverage for all of Montana's small businesses. In his letter, Rehberg states that "Insure Montana has a long waiting list for enrollees in addition to a recently announced potential premium increase of an astonishing 32% next year. While this increase will be difficult to absorb for those lucky enough to be enrolled in Insure Montana, it's even more frustrating to be one of the 600 small businesses stuck on a lengthy waiting list."

"The troubling increase in costs for the Insure Montana plan, points to the need for a hearing on H.R. 241, the Small Business Health Fairness Act," said Rehberg. "We can either leave these hardworking individuals out in the cold without healthcare coverage, or we can open the market and let them band together to form low-cost association health plans."


Letter:

October 25, 2007

Dear Chairman Miller and Ranking Member McKeon:

I am writing to request a House Committee on Education and Labor hearing on H.R. 241, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2007. With health care costs continuing to rise sharply across the country, employers and workers alike are sharing the burden of increased premiums. The overwhelming majority of uninsured Americans work for a small business. Many small businesses would like the opportunity to provide health care and compete with large corporations for the most qualified employees.

The Small Business Health Fairness Act allows associations to purchase group plans across state lines. By creating these small business health plans, which would be strictly regulated by the Department of Labor, small businesses could pool their resources and increase their bargaining power. This power will allow them to negotiate better rates and purchase quality health care at a lower cost. It comes as no surprise that small business owners all across Montana have been urging me to support this important legislation.

Providing additional health care options for Montanans is a top priority for me, however, this issue has recently become clouded by a turf war between small business owners and state insurance commissioners who are unwilling to cede any regulatory ground. In response, legislators in Montana chose to create a program entitled Insure Montana, which is a taxpayer subsidized program designed to help small businesses have better access to insurance plans. This program provides $11 million in tax credits and premium subsidies for small businesses.

Despite these generous government benefits, Insure Montana has a long waiting list for enrollees in addition to a recently announced potential premium increase of an astonishing 32% next year. While this increase will be difficult to absorb for those lucky enough to be enrolled in Insure Montana, it's even more frustrating to be one of the 600 small businesses stuck on a lengthy waiting list. We can either leave these hardworking individuals out in the cold without healthcare coverage, or we can open the market and let them band together to form low-cost association health plans.

One doesn't have to look very long to find examples on how a market oriented approach to provide health insurance can be successful. For instance, state association health plans, such as the Montana Chamber of Commerce's 9,000 member plan Montana Chamber Choices will only see premium increases in the low single digits compared with Insure Montana's potential steep increase. The success of the Chamber's plan can be attributed to competition in a transparent, open marketplace, something that is not did not occur in the Insure Montana plan.

The success of the Montana Chamber Choices plan, and the troubling increase in costs for the Insure Montana plan, points to the need for a hearing on H.R. 241, the Small Business Health Fairness Act. Health care is a priority for the forty-five million uninsured Americans struggling to keep their families healthy and it should be a priority for Congress. Injecting competition into the market and giving small business owners the same kind of health care choices enjoyed by corporations and labor unions alike.

Please contact myself or Brent Mead of my staff at 225-3211 for further details. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sincerely

Denny Rehberg

Member of Congressman


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