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Walden Backs Plan to Help Uninsured

Location: Washington, DC

Walden Backs Plan to Help Uninsured
Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bipartisan legislation would allow for creation of association health plans for small businesses, increasing access to affordable health insurance

WASHINGTON, DC - Employers who are often priced out of providing health insurance for their workers would be able to band together through nationwide associations to bargain for better health insurance rates under bipartisan legislation overwhelmingly approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Large corporations and unions know the power of being big enough to bargain for better rates. It's time small businesses had the same opportunity through their nationwide associations to get a fair deal on health insurance," said U.S. Representative Greg Walden, co-chair of the Bipartisan House Rural Health Care Coalition.

The Small Business Health Fairness Act (HR 525) passed the House by a vote of 263-165. The measure provides protections for consumers by prohibiting discrimination in coverage. It ensures that all employers who are members of the association sponsoring a health plan be eligible for coverage and guarantees enrollment of individuals regardless of their health status. The measure also requires an association be in existence for at least three years for substantial purposes other than providing health insurance coverage before it can offer plans.

"As a small employer for more than 19 years, I've seen firsthand the ever-escalating cost of health insurance. Small businesses are seeing huge rate increases every year, and more and more of them are saying they just can't afford to provide coverage. That's part of the reason more than 45 million Americans are now uninsured. This effort is designed to give them another chance to acquire affordable coverage," said Walden, who, with his wife, has owned radio stations in the Columbia Gorge since 1986.

The measure has earned the support of The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the Oregon Farm Bureau, the Oregon Restaurant Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Women Business Owners, among others. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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