As Congress gets set to tackle health care reform, we can only hope that they will pass the Small Business Health Options Program legislation (the SHOP Act).
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The bipartisan Small Business Health Options Program is designed to make health insurance less expensive and more available to small business employees.
That would make life much easier for the 47.0 million employees who work at the nation's 5.9 million small businesses and for over 14.0 million self-employed individuals in the United States.
This legislation has the support of some heavy hitters in the small business world, including the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Association of Realtors, the Service Employees International Union, the National Partnership for Women & Families, Families USA, and the National Restaurant Association.
In our conversations with small business owners, it's clear that the high cost of providing health care for employees is the number one problem for many small businesses and the self-employed.
Long story short, the Small Business Health Options Program will make health insurance more affordable and accessible for small businesses and the self-employed as a result of these SHOP features:
- Provide Tax Incentives for Better Healthcare Offers tax incentives to encourage states to reform poorly functioning small group insurance markets. In effect, small business owners and the self-employed would get tax credits to offset contributions to employee premiums.
- Pool Small Business Risks Across State Lines Encourages the development of state purchasing pools backstopped by a voluntary, nationwide pool. This would allow small businesses and the self-employed to band together across state lines and spread the risk over a large number of participants in order to obtain lower premiums.
- Protect Small Businesses from Health Insurance Rate Hikes Banning health status rating in order to protect small businesses and the self-employed from large rate increases simply because one employee gets sick.
Fixing the small business healthcare problem should be a national priority. Workers in the smallest businesses are almost three times as likely to be uninsured as those who work for the largest businesses.
To be sure, this economy won't fully recover until we give all Americans access to affordable health insurance. Addressing the healthcare challenges faced by small businesses is the most important part of that process, given that most Americans work at small businesses.
If you own a small business, this one is worth fighting for. Take a break from growing the business…and from figuring out how to make enough profits to cover your healthcare insurance costs…and call your Congressional reps to support the passage of the Small Business Health Options Program.