Small business owners in all fifty states have cited health insurance costs as their number one concern. Health insurance premiums have increased by 89 percent this decade, and only 49 percent of our nation’s smallest businesses are now able to offer health insurance as a workplace benefit. Further compounding the crisis, small group insurance markets across the country have no real competition among insurers. No competition means higher costs. And higher costs mean no health insurance. Today, the five largest carriers now have more than a 75 percent market share in 34 states – and control 90 percent or more in 23 states.
This is simply unacceptable and is nothing short of a crisis – but it’s a crisis that can be fixed, now. This is why Ranking Member Snowe has re-introduced, along with Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, and Senator Blanche Lincoln, breakthrough legislation aimed at making health insurance plans more affordable for small businesses. S. 979, the “Small Business Health Options Program Act” (SHOP) is designed to make insurance more available and affordable for our nation’s small businesses and the self-employed, who represent a majority – or 52 percent – of the uninsured. Specifically, the SHOP Act would allow small businesses to band together and spread the risk over a large number of participants in order to obtain lower premiums; provide tax credits for small business owners to offset contributions to employee premiums; and protect the self-employed and small businesses from large rate increases simply because one employee gets sick. This legislation is widely supported by groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the National Association of Realtors, the Service Employees International Union, AARP, Families USA, and the National Partnership for Women and Families. Senator Snowe firmly believes that the health insurance market reforms and coverage policies in the SHOP Act must be included in the broader health reform legislation that is being crafted in Congress.