Small Business Health Care to Revisit Days of Hardships-US Senate Bill 1955 Needs to be Rejected

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Senator Maggie Hassan

(603) 271 –2118

April 28, 2006

MY TURN

By Senator Maggie Hassan

Small Business Health Care to Revisit Days of Hardships

US Senate Bill 1955 Needs to be Rejected

Many New Hampshire small business owners shudder when they hear ‘Senate Bill 110’ uttered. Those that remember the days of Senate Bill 110, remember the hardships that they were faced with - high premiums for health care, or the alternative to go without coverage. Senate Bill 110 stymied small business growth here in New Hampshire, as premiums for health insurance became so exorbitant all funds went towards providing health care for employees.

The United States Senate is currently mulling over the issue of small business health insurance by implementing S. 1955. This an initiative by Senator Mike Enzi to allow small businesses affiliated with national trade associations to form groups across state lines in order to purchase health insurance. Passage of US Senate Bill 1955 would mean health status, gender, age, occupation or other such factors would be used in setting rates that would be overridden in some states. Services that are widely recognized as essential and that many states mandate, such as mammograms and other cancer screening, mental health services, diabetes test strips and glucose monitors, maternity and well-baby care, would not have to be covered. While an enhanced plan would be offered, it is not clear at this time if would be available to those would need it the most, or that they would be able to afford if it was.

A broad risk pool is what makes insurance affordable for most people. Allowing insurers to segment the market will inevitably result in older people, working moms, people with chronic health problems and millions of others paying higher rates for less coverage or going without insurance altogether. Even with unification of insurers across state lines, the costs of health care for those who can’t afford insurance don’t go away, they are merely shifted first to them directly, and eventually, to Medicaid or some other strand of our already straining health system. Ultimately, when the bill comes due for health care costs, it will be taxpayers who will have to pay it.

In 2005, the New Hampshire legislature passed Senate Bill 125, which had several goals of achieving small group market regulation. This legislation also preserved access to affordable coverage for high-risk groups, but at the same time avoided pushing the low risk groups out of the market. It also aimed at limiting the variability in health insurance costs and minimizing the difference between the rules governing the small group market and contiguous markets. And most importantly SB 125 ensured adequate rate stability and reduce barriers to market entry by promoting competition in terms of the number of insurers in the market with market share, choice of products, and ability of consumers to comparison shop based on price, preserve a stable regulatory environment.

We can not allow New Hampshire to fall victim to the ramifications of US Senate Bill 1955. Every small business in New Hampshire has the right to offer health care if they choose to do so. I urge you to reach out to our Washington D.C. delegation and tell them to vote no on US Senate Bill 1955.

Many New Hampshire small business owners shudder when they hear ‘Senate Bill 110’ uttered. Those that remember the days of Senate Bill 110, remember the hardships that they were faced with - high premiums for health care, or the alternative to go without coverage. Senate Bill 110 stymied small business growth here in New Hampshire, as premiums for health insurance became so exorbitant all funds went towards providing health care for employees.

The United States Senate is currently mulling over the issue of small business health insurance by implementing S. 1955. This an initiative by Senator Mike Enzi to allow small businesses affiliated with national trade associations to form groups across state lines in order to purchase health insurance. Passage of US Senate Bill 1955 would mean health status, gender, age, occupation or other such factors would be used in setting rates that would be overridden in some states. Services that are widely recognized as essential and that many states mandate, such as mammograms and other cancer screening, mental health services, diabetes test strips and glucose monitors, maternity and well-baby care, would not have to be covered. While an enhanced plan would be offered, it is not clear at this time if would be available to those would need it the most, or that they would be able to afford if it was.

A broad risk pool is what makes insurance affordable for most people. Allowing insurers to segment the market will inevitably result in older people, working moms, people with chronic health problems and millions of others paying higher rates for less coverage or going without insurance altogether. Even with unification of insurers across state lines, the costs of health care for those who can’t afford insurance don’t go away, they are merely shifted first to them directly, and eventually, to Medicaid or some other strand of our already straining health system. Ultimately, when the bill comes due for health care costs, it will be taxpayers who will have to pay it.

In 2005, the New Hampshire legislature passed Senate Bill 125, which had several goals of achieving small group market regulation. This legislation also preserved access to affordable coverage for high-risk groups, but at the same time avoided pushing the low risk groups out of the market. It also aimed at limiting the variability in health insurance costs and minimizing the difference between the rules governing the small group market and contiguous markets. And most importantly SB 125 ensured adequate rate stability and reduce barriers to market entry by promoting competition in terms of the number of insurers in the market with market share, choice of products, and ability of consumers to comparison shop based on price, preserve a stable regulatory environment.

We can not allow New Hampshire to fall victim to the ramifications of US Senate Bill 1955. Every small business in New Hampshire has the right to offer health care if they choose to do so. I urge you to reach out to our Washington D.C. delegation and tell them to vote no on US Senate Bill 1955.