Bill Will Make Health Insurance More Affordable for Small Businesses
Frankfort, KY: Governor Ernie Fletcher applauded the House Banking and Insurance Committee’s passage today of House Bill 278, the Small Business Insurance Relief Act, and urged the 2005 General Assembly to enact the bill.
“The Small Business Health Insurance Relief Act offers a comprehensive approach to making health insurance more affordable for Kentucky’s small businesses and their employees,” said Governor Ernie Fletcher. “I commend Representative Thompson and Representative Smith for their partnership and leadership in sponsoring this vital legislation. I urge both houses to pass this bill quickly.”
House Bill 278 is the product of collaboration between the Fletcher administration and organizations representing small businesses, insurance and other segments of the health care industry. The Relief Act is a response to Kentucky’s ailing health insurance market and the rising cost of health insurance premiums. Last year, small employers’ premiums increased 15.5 percent compared to 13.2 percent for larger employers.
Small businesses in Kentucky have been forced to absorb these added costs or pass them along to their employees. Some have even had to drop coverage, increasing the number of uninsured Kentuckians, currently 557,600 people. Eighty-five percent of uninsured Kentuckians are from working families.
Rep. Tommy Thompson (D-Owensboro), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said, “This approach -- led by the Governor -- will squarely address the single largest concern of small business, the suffocating nature and direction of health care costs. This bill will provide relief and not rhetoric and will allow employers to continue to provide affordable health coverage to their employees."
The bill’s other sponsor, Rep. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard), said, “This bill came about as a collaborative effort between lawmakers, small business and the Governor in order to bring the cost of health insurance under control for business owners who are running out of options to provide their workers with health insurance. The state stepped forward and helped teachers by getting them affordable health insurance, now it's time to provide much-needed relief to our small businesses. This bill is a smart step in the right direction."
The Small Business Insurance Relief Act includes: the small business access program, a pool to help smaller employers (2-10 employees) who provide coverage to at least one individual with a high cost condition; the basic health benefit plan, which makes insurance more affordable for employers with 50 or fewer employees by tailoring benefits to specific needs such as physician, pharmacy, home health and hospital services to; a uniform credentialing application, which will create a uniform system for physicians to receive privileges with insurers or hospitals; and the consumer right to know provision, which will create an advisory committee to assist the Cabinet for Health and Family Services with making consumers more aware of the costs of health care.