Lawmakers Debate Ways to Ease Pain of Health-Care Costs
Measures aimed at lowering the cost of employee health care for small businesses have been introduced in the U.S. Senate. A Republican version would allow employers to form association health plans, while a Democratic plan would create a national pool with public financing.
| All Aboard the High-Velocity 2006 FRx Express! FRx Software has the engine fired up again to travel nationwide with timely training and expert guidance! Microsoft FRx and Microsoft Forecaster users, potential users and resellers don’t miss this FREE*, half-day event!
Once you’re on board, the FRx Software experts will help you gain tremendous insight into Microsoft FRx and Microsoft Forecaster. You’ll have the opportunity to hear customer perspectives and network with prospects plus pack in useful tips, and see the features and benefits of FRx Software’s financial analytic applications. Register now!
The bills are working their way through the Senate as some public opinion polls show that health care costs are at the top of the list of concerns of small business owners. A survey by PNC Financial of Washington, D.C.-area small business owners showed that a majority rated health-care costs as a higher priority for congressional reform than the deficit, energy-dependence, tax reform or immigration policy, according to the Washington Business Journal. A third said employee health care costs impacts raises and hiring.
One Republican approach to those concerns is a bill sponsored by Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming, who calls for measures to allow small businesses to join association health plans to buy less regulated coverage, according to Congressional Quarterly HealthBeat. Enzi's bill has the approval of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is in hearings before the Finance Committee.
The competing bill, sponsored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, would create a national health care pool modeled after the system used to insure federal employees, according to Arkansas News Bureau. The program would cost the government $50 billion over 10 years, Lincoln said.
The program "will allow employers to reap the benefit of group purchasing power and streamline administrative costs, as well as access more plan choices," Lincoln said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
The program she is sponsoring would be open to all employers with up to 100 workers, including the self-employed. Employers who agree to pay at least 60 percent of each employee's health-insurance premium would get a 25 percent tax credit.
Yet another proposal would involve savings incentives. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), has a bill before the Finance Committee that would allow workers to pay for health-insurance premiums using a Health Savings Account, a tax-free savings plan that allows taxpayers to deposit money to pay for medical expenses.
"What it does is it turns patients into shoppers," DeMint told the committee.
Voice of the Editor
Which isn’t completely true. I mean, occasionally I drop by when I manage to sneak out of the nonstop frat party over at Going Concern, but I’m mostly a wallflower over there. I’m happy to say that I’ve been given express permission (or explicit orders, if you like) to wander over here to AccountingWEB more often.
Why is that, you might ask? My job is to replace the irreplaceable Gail Perry as Editor-in-Chief. What does that mean? I don’t really know! I think it’ll be fun getting a feel for things, throwing in my own thoughts here and there, and listening to the discussions you’re having about the accounting profession.