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NH State Rep introduces bill to cut small business health costs, give employers more options

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 10, 2009
CONTACT: Austin Guest, (212) 680-3116 ext. 110, aguest@progressivestates.org

NH STATE REP INTRODUCES BILL THAT COULD CUT SMALL BUSINESS HEALTH COSTS

Measure joins ranks of state bills that use purchasing pools to extend coverage while offering employers more options

Concord - Rep. Jill Shaffer Hammond (D-Hills. Dist. 3) today introduced an innovative bill that would allow small businesses, non-profits, and their employees to purchase health insurance through the state employee health plan.  HB617 would help tens of thousands of New Hampshire residents and small employers by increasing their options in the insurance market.  The bill could reduce health insurance costs for business owners and employees who take advantage of the option to join the state employee plan.

"This is an important step for small business owners and their employees," said Adam Thompson, a health care expert with the Progressive States Network, which tracks health care reform initiatives in states across the country.  "Allowing small businesses and non-profits to join the state plan will provide employers with more options and infuse the insurance market with competition."

In health insurance, small employers face higher costs than large employers, or groups.  This is because large groups are able to spread costs over a larger group of people, or pool, and use their bargaining power to negotiate betters rates from insurers and providers.  In New Hampshire, small businesses can also be hurt by the state’s rating laws, which allow insurers to charge higher premiums to small businesses with older employees. Rep. Hammond’s legislation may especially benefit small businesses with older employees and enable those businesses to maintain coverage during the worsening economy by making available comprehensive health care services at a more competitive rate.

While at least 24 states grant municipalities access to the state employee health plan, HB617 would be the first law extending that opportunity to all small businesses and non-profits in a state.  Enactment of HB617 would put New Hampshire on the forefront of states advancing real solutions to the health insurance crisis afflicting families and small businesses. 

"With the economic downturn and ever-rising health care costs, small employers are being hit especially hard and states across the country are struggling with how to increase more affordable options for health care," said Thompson. "Rep. Shaffer Hammond's bill is a simple yet innovative approach to give employers and working families more options for health insurance and help reduce the strain of health care costs on business and family budgets."

Similar initiatives are being pursued in Connecticut, New York, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Washington State.

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