House Panel Oks Association Health Plan Bill

June 12, 2003 ( - A bill that would make it easier for small companies to buy employee health care coverage has gotten past a US House of Representatives committee.

>According to a news release from the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, the panel gave a thumbs up to The Small Business Health Fairness Act (HR 660). The bill, which creates Association Health Plans (AHP) to allow small firms to buy health coverage as a group, won on a 26 to 21 vote.

“The best patient protection is access to affordable health benefit options. Yet 41 million Americans currently have no coverage at all,” said Representative Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the Employer-Employee Relations subcommittee and primary bill sponsor, in a statement. “The Small Business Health Fairness Act can reduce the high cost of health insurance for small businesses and the self employed.”

>According to the committee announcement, the bill approved Thursday would increase small businesses’ bargaining power with health care providers, give them freedom from costly state-mandated benefit packages, and lower their overhead costs by as much as 30%.  

>The news release said the bill had bipartisan support with more than 150 co-sponsors as well as the backing of the White House and from a 130-member coalition of business groups. The AHP proposal was introduced in February.