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US House Votes for Plan to Increase Access to Health Insurance

June 19, 2003
Press Release

Washington D.C. – Based on findings that as many as 41 million Americans do not have health insurance, and that 60 percent of the uninsured are employed by small businesses, Oklahoma's Tom Cole is cosponsoring a measure that will allow small business owners to form association health plans (AHPs). As part of the The Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R. 660), which passed the House today 262-162, small businesses may also join together to purchased health insurance for their workers at a lower cost.

"Small businesses and employers who currently can't afford to provide health care for themselves and their employees will be tremendously helped by the Health Fairness Act.  It is unacceptable to continue allowing so many American families and children to go without coverage," Congressman Cole said.

The bill will require AHPs to meet the eligibility requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor, prohibit discrimination in coverage against "high-risk" individuals, cover maternal and newborn hospitalization and mental health issues, and be financially responsible and solvent.

The AHPs will also be exempted from many burdensome and costly state health insurance regulations to enable greater and more effective coverage across multiple states.  CONSAD Research Corporation currently estimated that an additional 8.5 million workers and dependents will be able to afford health coverage as a result of this measure.

"As the economy recovers it is especially important that families be able to obtain affordable, quality insurance.  We support small business and the contribution they make to our economy and our nation.  This measure is an expression of our support for them and our concern for the welfare of all Americans," Cole said.