>The bill, which is supported by President Bush, would allow small companies to group together to purchase health care at lower costs, according to an announcement from Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio). AHPs would give small businesses greater bargaining power with health care providers, according to the news release, and lower overhead costs by as much as 30%. In addition to Boehner, the bill was cosponsored by Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-New York), and Representative Albert Wynn (D-Maryland), among others.
US Department of Labor (DoL) Secretary Elaine Chao supported the move, asserting in a statement Wednesday that “Association Health Plans will provide more choices, increase access to quality care and reduce the cost of health coverage.” She added: “the legislation also contains strong protections to deter fraud so benefits will be available when workers need them. This legislation is especially necessary for the nation’s millions of small businesses, creating a level playing field and giving them the same benefits of administrative savings, negotiating clout, and uniform regulation enjoyed by large businesses and labor unions.”
The news release said that a coalition of more than 160 groups have endorsed the bill, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Associated Builders and Contractors, The Latino Coalition, National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the National Restaurant Association. For more information about Association Health Plans and the broad coalition that supports AHPs, see http://www.ahpsnow.com .
>Similar bills have been introduced in the past, with the DoL throwing its support behind those as well (See DOL Pushes Health Insurance Alternative for Small Biz ). Last March, senators introduced a bill that attempted to create plans similar to the AHP, but it failed to become a law (See Senators Introduce Small Biz Health Care Bill ).