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WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Restaurant Association expressed disappointment following the Senate's May 11 failure to further legislation that would make health insurance more affordable and accessible for America's small businesses and their employees.
According to a news release, the Senate held a "cloture" vote to remove parliamentary roadblocks and allow the Senate to vote on S. 1955, the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act of 2005. This legislation would allow small businesses to create fully insured Small-Business Health Plans (SBHPs) that would lower health-care costs and increase access by providing increased competition and choices for employers looking for affordable health coverage. The vote failed by a vote of 55 to 43, thus ending Senate consideration of S. 1955. It is unclear if the Senate will reconsider S. 1955 this year.
"It is disappointing that small businesses and their employees will have to wait longer for affordable, accessible health care reform," said Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the NRA. "Small businesses, including our nation's 925,000 restaurants, struggle with excessive costs in providing health benefits to their employees."
Approximately 45 million Americans are without health insurance, and studies show that 60 percent of the uninsured either work for a small business or are a dependent of someone who does. Unless dramatically increasing health care costs are curbed, many employers may be forced to eliminate health benefits for their employees. (Read also Health insurance headache.)
The NRA said 70 percent of the restaurant industry, which is America's largest private-sector employer, is comprised of small businesses, and recent surveys show restaurateurs are deeply affected by the rising cost of health insurance.
SBHPs would allow small business owners to join together across state lines to purchase health insurance as a group, provide affordable health care through economies of scale, greater bargaining power and flexibility in health benefit design. By removing barriers to affordable coverage, this legislation will also greatly increase competition in health insurance markets, with substantial benefits to consumers.