Lincoln: Health Care Reform Must Help Arkansas’s Small Businesses

Washington— U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) today said health care reform legislation must fix a system that is broken for our small businesses and self-employed individuals.

In a press conference on Capitol Hill today, Lincoln said she has heard from several Arkansas small business owners about their struggles to afford health care coverage for themselves, their employees, and their families among rising premiums.

“A Malvern small business owner recently told me that he is giving up his 17-year-old business because he can no longer afford his rising health care insurance premiums,” said Lincoln.  “His wife and his daughter each have a pre-existing medical condition, and he feels pressure to find a new job that provides affordable employer-sponsored coverage for his family.  Similar stories of hardship and frustration are being played out for other Arkansas small business owners and employees under the current health care system.  Since 2004, I have worked to address the small business health care crisis, and it is time for Congress to help those whose top priority is access to quality, affordable, and stable health care for their employees and their families.”

Several elements of Lincoln’s bipartisan Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Act will be included in the Senate Finance Committee’s final health care reform bill currently being crafted.   As in SHOP, the Finance Committee bill will allow states to set up “exchanges” through which small groups, including the self-employed, and individuals can purchase coverage from a range of options.  Pooling small businesses and requiring health insurance companies to abide by more fair rating rules—like banning the practices of rating based on health status and denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions—will result in more affordable and stable coverage.  The Finance Committee bill will also include SHOP’s provision to provide tax credits to small businesses to help them afford coverage for their workers and their families.

The majority of uninsured Arkansans are self-employed individuals and employees of small businesses.  Although small businesses are the number one source for jobs in Arkansas, only 26 percent of businesses with fewer than 50 employees offer health insurance because it is simply too expensive.

Lincoln is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, a key Congressional committee charged with writing and paying for health care reform.

“The Senate Finance Committee is still at work crafting a deficit-neutral proposal that will stabilize health care costs and offer affordable and quality coverage for all Arkansans and Americans,” Lincoln said.  “We are closer to achieving meaningful health care reform than ever before, and it’s important we take the time to get this right.”