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WASHINGTON – The National Retail Federation today urged the House to pass association health plan legislation scheduled for a vote this week, saying it would help small businesses compete with large companies in providing employee health insurance at affordable rates. The vote will be included in NRF’s annual voting scorecard.
“Smaller employers have fewer employees with which to balance their employees’ risk profiles,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said. “We believe that AHPs are an important building block toward improving access to affordable health coverage for our nation’s small businesses.”
Group health benefits are “the key to coverage” for millions of workers and their families but “not all groups are created equally” and there is a “discrepancy between smaller and larger employers” that unfairly puts small companies at a disadvantage, French said.
French’s comments came in a letter to members of the House, which is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the Small Business Health Fairness Act. The legislation would allow small employers to band together through trade or professional organizations locally or across state lines in order to purchase coverage at rates normally available only to large companies. Public insurance pools are already available under the Affordable Care Act’s Small Business Health Options Program, but French said the private coverage available through the AHP legislation would be more affordable and would do a better job of balancing risk.
Some states already allow state-level AHPs, and Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst testified in favor of the national legislation during a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing earlier this month. Hurst, who appeared on behalf of NRF, said the plan run by his group since 2012 has been able to “directly impact the cost of coverage” for more than 5,000 workers at 287 small businesses.
NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.