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News from U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe
Chair, Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
For Immediate Release: March 6, 2006
Contact: Chris Chichester, 202-228-5843


WASHINGTON, DC - As a long-time champion of bringing relief to small businesses struggling with skyrocketing health care costs, Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) today praised Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee for unveiling Small Business Health Plan (SBHP) legislation that is scheduled to be marked-up this Wednesday. In February 2005, Senator Snowe, Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, introduced the Small Business Health Fairness Act (S. 406), which would allow small businesses to pool together, through SBHPs, to offer uniform health insurance at lower costs. SBHPs are also known as “Association Health Plans.”

“I applaud Senator Enzi for his continuing commitment to solving the small business health care crisis,” said Senator Snowe. “I appreciate Senator Enzi’s dutiful efforts to bridge the difference between key stakeholders on both sides of the AHP issue. I am optimistic about Senator Enzi's mark-up -- the first time that SBHP legislation has been marked up in the Senate. Relief for small business from the rising cost of health care is long over due and I am optimistic about Senator Enzi's mark-up -- the first time SBHP legislation has been marked up in the Senate.

“The fact is that there is a growing chorus in the Senate to bridge the differences on all sides of this issue in order to move this essential legislation out of Committee for consideration by the full Senate,” continued Snowe. “There are too many Americans struggling to afford basic health insurance and now is the time for the Congress to demonstrate our commitment to action by passing substantive legislation that will provide meaningful relief to our nation’s small businesses.”

Last month, along with Senator Talent and ten other cosponsors, Senator Snowe delivered a letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist, requesting that he encourage Senator Mike Enzi, Chair of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, to report SBHP legislation out of that committee this month. Of the nearly 46 million uninsured Americans, approximately 60 percent work for a small business. The Congressional Budget Office has conservatively estimated that 600,000 uninsured individuals would become insured if my legislation were passed, and other studies have concluded that as many as 8.5 million people might gain health insurance through small business health insurance plans.

“For months I’ve worked with my Senate colleagues, small businesses and Senate leadership to come to a workable compromise on this issue. In the coming weeks, I will continue to work closely with Senators Enzi and Talent and Majority Leader Frist to ensure that small business health plan legislation reaches the Senate floor for a final vote,” stated Senator Snowe.

The mark-up is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8th in Room 428, Dirksen Senate Office Building.


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