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Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005

Location: Washington, DC

SMALL BUSINESS HEALTH FAIRNESS ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 26, 2005)


Mr. COOPER. Mr. Speaker, I think the Rules Committee has made a terrible mistake here, and not the usual Rules Committee sort of mistake, because they have actually allowed to come to the floor a substitute that is so clearly superior to the AHP bill it is amazing.

Now, let my friends on the other side understand, I am not against AHPs. I am an original cosponsor of the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Johnson's) legislation. AHPs would be an improvement over current market conditions, which are appalling. But this plan put forward by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Kind) and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Andrews) is better than AHPs, and let me describe some of the ways.

First, the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Boustany) mentioned choice earlier. Under the AHP approach, the average small business might be able to offer their employees one or two insurance plans, and that employee of the small business would have no idea whether their doctor was going to be a apart of one of those plans. But under the Federal employee approach, such as the one that we enjoy in this House of Representatives, they could have 10 or 20 or more plans to choose from, and the likelihood that their physician, their caregiver, would be part of one or more of those plans increases substantially.

So when you are talking about unleashing the free market to work for the individual, the Federal Employee Health Benefits-type plan, and this would not infringe on Federal employees' benefits, but it would set up a parallel organization that small businesses could benefit from, the opportunities for the small businesses of America are magnificent under this approach.

Another key aspect of this is the substitute approach is more likely to work. AHPs are largely a thought experiment. They have never really worked anywhere. But the Federal Employee Health Benefit System has worked well for decades, 30 or 40 years of a magnificent track record of experience. It has got bipartisan support. Men and women of goodwill on both sides of the aisle know that this sort of approach works; it lowers the sales load, it increases the risk pool to the maximum size which you need for lower group rates.

It really is the fairest and best way to approach this nagging small business problem that we have had. It is also going to be more affordable, because while it lowers the sales load and increases the size of the risk pool, it is fairer to all industries.

There are probably going to be a lot of insurance companies that want to offer insurance to software companies, because those employees tend to be young and healthy. How many are going to be eager to insure older Rust Belt industries?

The tax credit approach that my friend has mentioned has had to be adjusted for purposes of this substitute, but we need to acknowledge, as my friend from New Jersey (Mr. Andrews) mentioned, health care is already seriously subsidized in this country. All we are trying to do is make that subsidy fairer.

I think also the substitute approach would make the system higher quality. First of all, under AHPs, there would be minimal solvency requirements. By completely overturning all State regulation, as AHPs would do, that is a truly radical approach, and while my friends on the other side may be radicals in this regard, I think they are going further than they realize. These insurance plans need to be thoroughly solvent. You need to have adequate capital requirements so that you know the insurance is going to be there when you need it.

I think you would have better benefits under this plan, too, because you would have more proven traditional insurance policies that I think more folks who work for small businesses are accustomed to.

Let me admit, Mr. Speaker, in closing, our approach is less famous. Why? Because we do not have every PAC and trade association in Washington, D.C. favoring this because they stand to personally benefit from promoting AHPs to their members. They are desperate for non-dues revenue for those associations.

For any tourist who comes to Washington, if you do not think these PACs and trade associations are rich enough, come visit again. You will see skyscrapers full of these folks all over town, and they would love to make money as insurance salesmen to all the small businesses in America. That is not doing justice for our folks back home.

As I say, AHPs are an improvement, but they are not as good as the Kind-Andrews approach. Please vote for Kind-Andrews.


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