WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Highlighting the urgent need for access to affordable health care for the more than 43 million uninsured Americans, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) said is continuing its efforts to ensure passage of Association Health Plan (AHP) legislation in the U.S. Senate.
According to a news release, AHPs enable small businesses and their employees to have the same insurance opportunities as those employed by large businesses and unions: affordable health care through economies of scale, greater bargaining power, regulatory uniformity and flexibility in health benefit design. By removing barriers to affordable coverage, this legislation will also greatly increase competition in health insurance markets.
According to new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans without health insurance increased 6 percent (2.4 million people) to 43.6 million Americans last year.
AHP legislation has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) to expand health care access for millions of uninsured Americans.
The law's passage is viewed as potentially helpful to millions of restaurant industry workers. According to the NRA, the industry is the largest private-sector employer in the country, and is dominated by small businesses. Seventy percent of all eating-and-drinking places have annual sales of less than $500,000 and an average work force of fewer than 50 employees. In surveys, restaurateurs have routinely said that cost is the biggest hurdle to purchasing or providing health coverage.
"Our members are committed to increasing access to quality health care for small business employees through the creation of Association Health Plans, and through our grassroots efforts we hope to spur action in the Senate," said Steven C. Anderson, NRA president and CEO.
Anderson added that restaurants are deeply affected by the rising cost of health insurance. Surveys show that each of the last two years' premiums for table-service restaurants alone rose an average of 23 percent.