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Statement of Senator Michael B. Enzi
Small Business Health Plan Act of 2008
April 3, 2008

Mr. ENZI:  Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the cost of health care, and what the Senate can do this year to make health care more affordable for America’s working families.

Last summer I introduced a bill, “Ten Steps to Transform Health Care in America” which if enacted would provide every American with private health insurance.  To help spread the word and get some suggestions and comments from the people of Wyoming, I took it on the road and headed throughout our state, making ten stops to talk about my bill, “Ten Steps to Transform Healthcare in America.” 

I designed “Ten Steps” to be an evolving product, something that could be moved in pieces.  I have found that Congress isn’t very successful doing things in a revolutionary way.  I believe we can have success and accomplish real health care reform in an evolutionary fashion.

In just over three days we traveled over 1,200 miles, visited ten towns and met with hundreds of Wyoming folks.  They all had one message for us – they’re worried about their health care and so am I.  Of all of the Ten Steps, one in particular created a host of comments and support:  Step number 4, Small Business Health Plans.  You see, 70 percent of the people in Wyoming work for small businesses.  They experience first hand the challenges of finding affordable health insurance and keeping it.  

So, today Mr. President, I am introducing Step 4 of my Ten Steps Bill, the Small Business Health Plans Act of 2008, to give a special level of focus to the need to find a way to help small businesses stem the tide of rising health care costs.  They simply cannot keep up with the increases and are clamoring for us in the Senate to do something, anything, to help.  And do it now. 

Small Business Health Plans is something I’ve been working on for a while with my friend, Senator Ben Nelson.  I want to thank Senator Nelson for his leadership and expertise in this matter and for his steadfast support. 

Step 4, the Small Business Health Plans Act, will reduce the cost of health care, especially for America’s small business owners and working families.  Today, of the 46 million people without health insurance in this country, 12 million people own or work for small businesses or live in families that depend on small business wages.  Another 5 million are self-employed.  That makes 17 million people who can’t afford decent health insurance right now and would be helped by this bill. 

Small Business Health Plans (SBHPs) will allow business and trade associations to band their members together across state lines and offer group health coverage to their employees.  By banding groups of small businesses together on a regional or national basis, SBHPs create real purchasing power that small businesses could never have on their own.  This purchasing power will allow them to negotiate for better prices and greater benefits.  Just like big businesses do. 

A report prepared by an independent analyst found that Small Business Health Plans would reduce health insurance costs for small business by 12 percent. In today’s dollars - about $1,000 per employee; and, would reduce the number of uninsured in working families by 8 percent - or approximately 1 million people.  That is real relief! 

The American people overwhelmingly support giving small businesses the same power that big companies have to negotiate for better benefits and better prices.  And, small business owners for years have been asking for the power that big businesses have, so they can secure affordable health care for their employees and their families. 

Every day, emergency rooms treat more than 30 thousand uninsured Americans who work for or depend on small businesses.  That’s at least 30 thousand reasons why we need to get something done now to help create affordable, market-based choices for America’s small businesses and working families.

I’m a former small business owner, and I know something about the struggle to provide affordable health coverage to my own family and to my “work family.”  And Senator Nelson is a former state insurance commissioner, so he knows something about the importance of protecting consumers.

I also want to thank Sen. Gregg for his leadership on this issue.  Sen. Gregg has worked very hard to help find relief for small businesses and I very much appreciate his support and thank him for being a cosponsor of this important legislation.

Let’s take the first step toward more affordable health care for all Americans by giving small business owners the power to create Small Business Health Plans for themselves, their families, and their workers.  Let’s give them the change they are seeking, instead of “more of the same,” or more excuses for not acting.

I believe we can agree on 80 percent of the issues and on 80 percent of each issue.  If we focus on that 80 percent, we can get things done.  I have been and will continue to work with my colleagues and stakeholders to find that 80 percent on Small Business Health Plans to provide real relief for America’s working families.  The time for action is now.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.