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U.S. Rep. Kind Leads Bipartisan Coalition of Members, Business & Labor Groups in Announcing House Introduction of Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP Act)

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Kind Leads Bipartisan Coalition of Members, Business & Labor Groups in Announcing House Introduction of Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP Act)

A bipartisan group of members, including U.S. Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Phil English (R-PA), John Barrow (D-GA), Bill Young (R-FL), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Tom Allen (D-ME), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Jason Altmire (D-PA), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN) along the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), today unveiled the Small Business Heath Options Program (SHOP) Act, H.R. 6210, legislation designed to make health insurance more available and affordable for small businesses and their employees. H.R. 6210 is companion legislation to Senator Durbin's S. 2795, introduced in early April.

"Small businesses in the United States are in a crisis today when it comes to finding affordable health insurance," Rep. Kind (D-WI) said. "With rising costs pricing small businesses out of the market, it's no surprise that sixty percent of Americans without health insurance are from families where the head of household is self-employed or works in a small business. If we are going to address the lack of health care coverage in this country, we have to first look at small businesses, and the SHOP Act gets to the heart of that. I am proud of this historic, bipartisan coalition, and look forward to working with more of my colleagues to advance this bill."

"As healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, American entrepreneurs and small businesses are all too often forced to choose between the livelihood of their business and the quality of benefits they provide to their workers," said Rep. English (R-PA). "By establishing a nationwide health insurance pool for small businesses and the self-employed, we can break down the barriers to affordable health insurance and ensure these job producing employers can provide their workers with stronger healthcare options with more choices at a lower cost. The SHOP Act is an innovative, bipartisan compromise that will go a long way to increasing access to affordable, quality healthcare in our country."

"The SHOP Act will make it so that small businesses won't have to pay more for health insurance than big businesses have to pay," said Rep. Barrow (D-GA). "There's no such thing as a free lunch, but it's just wrong that little guys get charged a whole lot more for the same lunch than the big guys have to pay. The SHOP Act will fix that."

The SHOP Act would make health insurance less costly, more predictable, and more accessible for the 47.1 million employees of the nation's 5.8 million small businesses and for the 14.1 million self-employed individuals in America by:

* Allowing small businesses and the self employed to band together in a statewide or nationwide pool to obtain lower health insurance prices by spreading their risk over a larger number of participants.
* Keeping prices low by offering a range of private health plans that have to compete for business.
* Providing small business owners with an annual tax credit of up to $1,000 per employee ($2,000 for family coverage) if they pay for 60% of their employees' premiums, and a bonus tax credit if they pay for more than 60% of the premiums. Self-employed individuals would get a $1,800 annual tax credit ($3,600 for family coverage) to purchase health insurance.
* Cutting down on administrative costs for small businesses - today, small businesses spend almost 25 percent of health insurance premiums on administrative costs, compared to 10 percent for large employers.
* Banning the practice of rating insurance based on health status and claims experience so that premium increases will be more stable and predictable.
* Providing a website with comparative information about a variety of private health plans.
* Putting in place accountability measures that rely on the proven oversight of state insurance commissioners to ensure that all health plans meet state requirements for financial solvency, network adequacy, and claims and appeal procedures.

"We commend this bipartisan group of Representatives for supporting small business and working to address their number one concern - the ever-increasing cost of healthcare," said Todd Stottlemyer, president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business. "The pooling options and tax credits outlined in this bill directly reflect on NFIB's Small Business Principles for Healthcare Reform, helping to stabilize costs and incentivizing small businesses. We will continue to work with leaders in Congress to pursue new approaches to addressing the healthcare crisis that continues to burden America's job creators."

"For many Realtors and those with families, the total cost of health insurance can rival or even exceed their monthly mortgage," said James L. Helsel, Jr., Treasurer of the National Association of Realtors. "This bill will empower trade associations and other organizations to help guide their self-employed and small business members through the process of finding coverage."

"Too many hardworking people in this country are struggling under the strain of health care costs that are rising every year, without any relief - people like Deborah Roberson, a child care worker from Erie, Pennsylvania," said Mary Kay Henry, Executive Vice President of SEIU, the largest union of health care workers. "Deborah lives in fear of getting sick because she can't afford coverage, even though she works over 80 hours a week taking care of up to 6 children. This bill won't fix everything wrong with our broken health care system, but it will help Deborah, and millions like her."

"More than 27 million small business employees do not have health insurance due to high costs and limited availability," said Rep. Altmire (D-PA), member of House Small Business Committee. "The SHOP Act is bipartisan legislation that brings together business and labor to make health care more affordable for America's small businesses and the self-employed. Enacting these reforms is fundamental to achieving lower health insurance costs, more stability in the market, and expanded plan choices for our nation's small businesses."

"In many states, small business owners and self-employed businessmen have turned to purchasing alliances to secure affordable health insurance for themselves or their employees," said Rep. Shays (R-CT). "The SHOP Act will help control health care costs by permitting individuals to use their collective bargaining power to win cost concessions from insurance companies."

"It's great to see such a broad coalition of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as well as business and labor organizations stand in support of reducing the costs of health care," said Rep. Carnahan (D-MO). "This bill will allow small businesses to join forces to combat skyrocketing health care costs, which is good for small businesses, individuals and the American economy."

"We cannot fix our economy until we fix health care," said Rep. Allen (D-ME). "Middle class families and small businesses are the backbone of that economy. Assuring them access to quality affordable health care is vital to our ability to compete in the global economy and assure the future prosperity of all Americans."

"Connecticut's small business owners want to provide their employees with health insurance, but escalating costs continue to be a major financial strain," said Rep. Courtney (D-CT). "This bipartisan legislation offers a path for small businesses nationwide to an affordable health insurance option, complete with tax breaks, without sacrificing quality coverage. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this important legislation, and I applaud Congressmen Ron Kind and Phil English for working across the aisle to help provide health care to millions of America's workers who deserve meaningful medical coverage."

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