Firms Push Health Insurance Reform

October 9, 2002
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LANSING — The soaring cost of providing health care for employees is threatening to drive some small businesses out of business.

A trade group, the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), is pushing a plan that it believes would help drive down such costs.

However, in Michigan for the past four years health insurance premiums have doubled, in 2002 increasing by more than 30 percent, according to SBAM.

SBAM is urging legislative action.

The House Community Health Committee will meet to discuss a bill that SBAM believes would help small business.

Rep. Paul DeWeese, R- Williamston, said, "There is a crisis of escalating smaller employers dropping coverage, leaving more and more employees with no health insurance."

"Ultimately we will have to have employees participating more through deductibles and co-payments," DeWeese said.

He also said another way to combat the increasing small-business insurance premiums is to "get a lot more people on the Ingham County Health Plan."

The Ingham County Health Plan is the state's health insurance program.

DeWeese said "everyone in Michigan deserves to have some type of health insurance."

"For small business to combat this growing problem of health insurance premiums in the coming years rate bands must be introduced", SBAM said in a news release.

"Rate bands" can do this because they require that health insurance premiums not exceed a certain percentage from the highest to the lowest premium.

Rob Fowler, vice president of insurance services for SBAM, said, "This will help small business because rate bands will bring market principles back in and everyone will have to play by the ground rules."

Currently, Blue Cross -Blue Shield of Michigan is the biggest health insurance organization offering health insurance coverage to employees in Michigan's businesses.

Barry Cargill, vice president of government relations for SBAM, said, "Rate bands will help increase competitive choices for small business insurance."

© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism

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