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News from U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe
Chair, Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
For Immediate Release: March 15, 2006
Contact: Chris Chichester, 202-228-5843
Rich Chrismer, 202-224-6154

Praise HELP Committee Mark-Up of SBHP Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC - Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Senator Jim Talent (R-MO), called today’s action by the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee to report to the full Senate a bill on Small Business Health Plans (SBHPs) a milestone to finally providing small businesses access to affordable health insurance.

“The cost of health care is the number one issue facing small businesses today. Despite the fact that they are responsible for creating nearly 75 percent of all new jobs, our nation’s small businesses are trapped in a vicious cycle of escalating health care premiums and fewer coverage options. It is a crisis that will only deepen if Congress does not act now and pass legislation that provides small businesses with the freedom to create Small Business Health Plans," said Senator Snowe.

“Yet, today, the Senate took a huge step forward with the Senate HELP Committee moving Small Business Health Plan legislation forward for consideration by the full Senate," continued Senator Snowe. "I applaud Chairman Mike Enzi for his leadership, commitment, and perseverance in working to bridge the differences between key stakeholders on all sides of this critical issue. In the coming weeks, I will continue to work closely with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to help ensure that SBHPs are considered – and passed – on the Senate floor. The fact remains that relief for small business from the rising cost of health care is long overdue and I am confident this process will finally bring competition and choices to dysfunctional health insurance markets that have suffocated small businesses for too long.”

“This is an important milestone in our effort to help lower health care costs for small business men and women,” said U.S. Senator Talent. “Two-thirds of America’s nearly 46 million uninsured either own a small business, work for a small business, or are a dependent of someone who does. Small Business Health Plans will help reduce the cost of health insurance to small businesses by 20 percent or more, they would help cover millions of uninsured Americans, and they wouldn’t cost the taxpayer a penny.

“We are committed to bringing this legislation to the Senate floor as soon as possible. And we will continue working with senators in both parties to help lower the cost of health insurance for our small business people,” stated Senator Talent.

Last year, Senators Snowe and Talent introduced S. 406, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005. The bill mirrors the House version of Small Business Health Plan legislation, H.R. 525, which last year the House of Representatives passed overwhelmingly, 263-165. This was the eighth time the House has passed such a bill. Small Business Health Plans represent a fair, fiscally sound, and tested approach that provide small businesses with the freedom to offer the same health insurance and savings options currently available to employees of larger businesses.



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