Snowe Proposes SIMPLE Cafeteria Benefits Plan

April 7, 2005 ( - US Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) has introduced the SIMPLE Cafeteria Plan Act of 2005 to amend the tax code so that small businesses and their employees could buy employer-provided health insurance with pretax dollars.

According to a news release, the measure, S 723, is modeled after the Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) pension plan enacted in 1996 and is aimed at helping small companies that typically cannot satisfy cafeteria plan rules due to testing and eligibility problems.

Cosponsored by Senators Christopher Bond (R-Missouri) and Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), the bipartisan measure would also permit a carryover of unused flexible spending accounts funds as well as simplifying and increasing dependent care accounts for employers, according to the news release.

Earlier, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) introduced S.309, a bill to permit $500 in unused flexible spending account health benefits to be rolled over into the next plan year. That measure, cosponsored by Senators John Ensign (R-Nevada) and Ken Salazar (D-Colorado) has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for action.

Snowe is expected to hold hearings soon on her association health plan measure, S.406,Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005. That measure, which amends ERISA, would allow small businesses to pool together, nationally, through trade associations, to create Association Health Plans (AHPs) and either purchase their health insurance from a provider, or to self insure.

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