Senate Democrats

DEMOCRATS INTRODUCE AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE PLAN FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Will Push for its Approval during Upcoming Debate in Key Health Committee

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senate Democrats introduced The Small Employers Health Benefits Program (SEHBP), legislation to give small businesses affordable choices among private health insurance plans and expand access to health care coverage for their employees.

The Senators announced that SEHBP will be offered as the Democratic alternative to the Enzi health insurance bill scheduled for consideration in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, the lead sponsor of the bill, said, “The high cost of health insurance is the top concern for small businesses in Illinois and across America. The Small Business Health Benefits Plan will give employees of small businesses the same kinds of health care choices Members of Congress already have, for less than they pay now, while making it affordable for owners to provide it. With 46 million uninsured Americans, SEHBP is a lifeline to millions of workers who are without affordable, quality health insurance.”

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) said, “The crisis of ever escalating health care costs is getting worse,” Lincoln said. “Many small business owners in my home state of Arkansas have been forced to drop or dramatically reduce health insurance for their employees, even though they desperately want to offer it. Our small employers know that offering health insurance helps them with recruitment, retention, employee performance, and the overall success of the business. This is something I firmly believe Congress should address right now. Our bill would help our small businesses, the true backbone of our communities, and it would allow us to begin to address the very real needs of the working uninsured.”

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) noted, “As we look at ways to address the health care crisis to help Americans struggling with the increased costs of health care, we must provide meaningful access to affordable, comprehensive coverage. Unlike the Bush administration and Bush Republican approach, the SEHBP offers a real solution to small businesspeople.”

The Small Employers Health Benefits Program (SEHBP) would allow small businesses across America to band together for lower health care prices by pooling their purchasing power and spreading their risk over a large number of participants. Employers would qualify for an annual tax credit to partially offset contributions on behalf of low-income employees.

The SEHBP is modeled after the highly successful Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which has offered more than eight million government employees and retirees, including members of Congress and their staffs, a wide range of private health insurance choices for more than 40 years. SEHBP would give employees of small businesses access to a comparable range of private health plans.

Senator Ted Kennedy, Ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said, “I believe that health care should be a right – not a privilege — in this country. The Democratic plan would give small businesses the same health care plans to choose from that members of Congress and federal employees have. And in addition to cutting costs by allowing small businesses to pool together, our plan would include a reinsurance program and tax credits to help lower premium costs. The Republican plan is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing, harming millions of Americans by taking away their benefits and raising their premiums.”

“More than 45 million Americans lack health insurance, while millions of others pay very high premiums to get coverage. This legislation takes common sense steps that will help small business owners afford health insurance for themselves and their employees,” said Senator Bingaman (D-NM), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“Small businesses are the engine of our economy, employing more than half of all private sector employees. However, these employers too often can’t afford to provide healthcare for their employees. Our legislation will make it easier and more affordable for small businesses to offer healthcare benefits to their employees, putting us one step closer to the goal of expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans,” said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin, is cosponsored by Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Senator Max Baucus, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Blanche Lincoln, Senator John Kerry, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Tom Carper, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Tim Johnson, Senator Herb Kohl, Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Mark Pryor, and Senator Bob Menendez.

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