WASHINGTON - Senator John F. Kerry, Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today co-hosted a hearing to examine the health care crisis facing small businesses in America.

The Committee heard testimony on possible solutions to the small business health care crisis, including the Bush Administration's proposal for Association Health Plans (AHP's) that has been criticized by small businesses, healthcare advocates, unions, state officials and others.

Senator Kerry also expressed concerns, saying that; "We have spent more than a decade putting patient protections into place - protections that the Bush Administration is forfeiting for a bargain basement solution for small businesses desiring affordable health care. Access to health care should be affordable, but it also must be reliable and must not trade value for risk to those it's designed to protect".

"The challenge we have before us is to develop more effective pooling mechanisms that can give small businesses more leverage in the health insurance market while still preserving essential consumer protections."

Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerry is a staunch advocate of improved access to health care. His efforts include the Medicare Reform Act, the Patients Bill of Rights, the State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP), the Nurse Reinvestment Act, the Women's Health Equity Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. He has also been awarded Legislator of the Year by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Massachusetts Home Health Care Association in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

At today's hearing, the Committee heard from four panels of witnesses including representatives from Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), the National Partnership of Women and Families, National Small Business United, and The Center for Studying Health Systems Change. Drawing from the testimony of today's witnesses, Kerry plans to explore possible legislative solutions for this challenging problem in the 108th Congress.