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Senate Hearing Focuses on Health Care Solutions for Small Businesses

On October 25, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing addressing the health care requirements of small businesses and their human resources.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the committee chairperson, lay emphasis that small business health insurance is one of the next precedence’s Congress must address, after enacting SCHIP legislation, to extend coverage to the uninsured. Baucus noted that half of uninsured workers are whichever self-employed or employed by small businesses. He put forwarded that possible solutions take account of tax credits, pooling across state lines, and broader insurance options for small business employees. Baucus emphasized the significance of ensuring that new insurance alternatives offer "real coverage that is worth the money."

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the committee's ranking Republican member, discussed his interest in changing the tax treatment of health insurance to level the playing field while also targeting tax preferences to low-income workers. While emphasizing the necessity for a competitive marketplace, Grassley indicated that Chairman Baucus and he have discussed the likelihood of creating a new mechanism, possibly modeled after the Massachusetts health care reforms, to serve as a "gateway" or clearinghouse that would offer "one-stop-shopping" and permit employees and individuals to simply, compare their health insurance alternatives.

Testifying on behalf of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Joel Ario, acting insurance commissioner in Pennsylvania, recommended Congress to move forward with legislation that provides funding for state initiatives and establishes procedures for waiving federal necessities that hinder state innovation. Monty Newman, testifying on behalf of the National Association of Realtors, told the committee that tax incentives are helpful, but also recommended that they ought to be accompanied by important reforms to the individual and small group health insurance markets. Newman expressed apprehension that the individual insurance market, where most independent real estate agents look for coverage, allows "no negotiating, no leverage, no economies of scale, and absolutely no efficiency."



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