Lincoln outlines health care relief

The Senator sent this along and I am glad to put it up here for your consideration.

With 295,000 Uninsured Small Business Workers, Lincoln Proposals Will Ensure Arkansans Get Help They Need to Access Coverage

Lincoln health care exchange proposal foundation of Senate health bill

Nationwide health plans with federal regulator included in exchange; first proposed by Lincoln in 2004

Lincoln amendment allows businesses of up to 100 employees to participate in health care exchange—current threshold in Arkansas is 50 employees

Lincoln secures an additional $14 billion in tax relief; 260,000 Arkansans working in 50,000 small businesses will be eligible

Washington – U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) today said the health insurance reforms she secured in the revised Senate health plan will help Arkansas’s small businesses, the self-employed, their families, and other individuals access the coverage they need to be competitive and receive quality, affordable health care.

“In the revised Senate health plan, Arkansans will be able to access health care based on legislation I first introduced in 2004,” Lincoln said.  “Small businesses across the country will now get the help they need to access coverage, placing them at the competitive advantage large corporations have enjoyed.  They will be able to shop for health insurance on newly-created health insurance exchanges and with the tax credit I authored.  In fact, 260,000 Arkansans working in 50,000 small businesses will be eligible for this tax relief.  Within the exchanges, we have set up a program similar to the federal employees’ health program, with a proven federal negotiator, the Office of Personnel Management that currently administers plans for federal employees.  I have championed this idea since 2004 and successfully included it in the Senate’s revised health plan.”

Since 2004, Lincoln has authored legislation to ensure that Arkansas’s small business owners, their employees and families, and the self-employed can afford quality health coverage.  Her proposals are now the foundation of the Senate’s revised health plan and include the following:

ü  Health insurance exchange, where small businesses, the self-employed, their families, and other individuals will be able to shop for coverage among a range of quality, affordable, private insurance plans;

ü  Within the exchange, some health insurance plans including at least one non-profit plan will be sold in all 50 states, bringing new competition into Arkansas, with the Federal Office of Personnel Management negotiating rates to keep premiums affordable.

ü  Tax relief to reduce the cost of health insurance (50,000 Arkansas small businesses with 260,000 workers will qualify); and

ü  Rating reforms to make premiums more stable from year-to-year and more affordable.

Small businesses account for 97 percent of employers in Arkansas.  They are the number one source for jobs in Arkansas, yet only 27 percent of businesses with fewer than 50 employees offer health insurance coverage because it is simply too expensive.  Of Arkansas’s total uninsured population, more than 56 percent, or approximately 295,000 Arkansans, are employed by a firm with 100 or fewer employees.

“We could do a lot better work, and do a whole lot more with the money we have if we weren’t paying so much for healthcare. Leaving things the way they are just isn’t acceptable,” said Bret Park, owner of Park Company Architects in Fayetteville. “I am grateful to Senator Lincoln for her work on the Senate healthcare bill, and I’m happy it’s moving forward. I’m hopeful that if reform is passed now, the change will be significant and it might open it up for further

discussions down the road. No change would be just too demoralizing to bear.”

“I’m grateful to Senator Lincoln and everyone who voted with her to support this bill,” said Lisa Sharp, owner of Nightbird Books in Fayetteville. “I hope this is a step toward passing a final bill that will ensure health insurance becomes and stays affordable for small business owners.”

Senator Lincoln’s efforts are paving the way for small businesses in Arkansas and across the country to access quality, affordable health care:

Greater access: Health Insurance Exchange

  • Small businesses, the self-employed, their families, and other individuals will be able to shop for coverage among a range of quality, affordable, private insurance plans through the health insurance exchange to be established in Arkansas.  The idea of an exchange was first proposed in Senator Lincoln’s SHOP (Small business Health Options Program) bill.
  • Senator Lincoln worked to ensure that businesses of up to 100 could participate in the exchanges, which is a significant change from Arkansas’s current small group health insurance market which only covers businesses of 2-50 employees.
  • Senator Lincoln worked to ensure that there is only one exchange per state, to increase administrative efficiencies and lower premiums.

Greater Choice: Nationwide health plans regulated by the Office of Personnel Management

  • Within the exchanges, a program similar to the federal employees’ health program will be established.  Insurance plans can be sold nationwide with a proven federal negotiator, OPM that currently administers plans for federal employees, to help keep insurance rates affordable and ensure plans are abiding by fair rules. Lincoln has championed the exchange concept and nationwide health plan idea since 2004.

Greater Affordability: Help for Small Businesses

  • Senator Lincoln successfully pushed for an additional $14 billion in tax relief for our small businesses that provide health insurance coverage for their employees, for a total of $38 billion in tax relief. Now, small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance on newly-created health insurance exchanges, modeled after Senator Lincoln’s SHOP bill, with the tax credit that she authored.  Approximately 260,000 Arkansans working in 50,000 small businesses will be eligible for this tax relief.
  • Senator Lincoln successfully pushed to eliminate the mandate on small business to purchase coverage. This means that Arkansas small businesses with less than 50 employees will not be required to cover their employees. Arkansas small business owners have told her that they want to provide coverage for their workers, but they could not find affordable options.

Fairer Rules: Changing the way health insurance companies do business

  • As in Senator Lincoln’s SHOP bill, insurance plans sold through the new health insurance exchange would adhere to strict rating rules, including no denials based on a pre-existing condition, increasing rates or dropping customers when they get sick, and limiting the rating based on age. For too long, Arkansas small businesses have been subject to extreme uncertainty and premium rate hikes when even one employee gets sick. This will no longer be allowed.
  • Two Lincoln-sponsored amendments were included in the Senate bill as extra measures to ensure that premium dollars for plans sold in the new health insurance exchange are going toward care, not administrative overhead or excessive executive compensation at taxpayers’ expense.
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About patlynch
I am a broadcaster in Arkansas, a former freelance writer and political columnist in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Writing Coach. Speaker. Director of the Christian Foundations for Ministry program, and presently enrolled in the Anglican School of Ministry Master of Ministry program.

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