Congressional republicans are digging up an old small-business health insurance proposal Democrats buried in past Congresses-and some influential House Democrats are helping wield the shovels. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), ranking minority member on the House Small Business Committee, co-sponsors the Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R. 660), which would allow trade associations to create federally regulated national health insurance programs for small businesses. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, is sponsoring the bill on her side of the Capitol.
Trade associations, which would offer association health plans (AHPs), would have considerable flexibility in choosing coverage. And Sen. James Talent (R-MO), who sponsored past AHP legislation, says at least 2 million small-business employees would be covered, based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. Says Talent, "Employers who offered AHPs would see their premiums reduced between 9 and 25 percent."
It's a Match
The SBA's business matchmaking program debuted in Cleveland late last year. The program, which matches small businesses with federal, state and local government agencies that have contracts for products and services, will visit a number of cities through 2004. All participants complete online profiles prior to the event to expedite matching. For more information, go to www.uschamber.com/events/matchmaking.
Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.