Durbin's Small Business Health Options Program Included in HELP Committee Package

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that the major features of his Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) were included in the Senate HELP Committee’s Affordable Heath Choices Act which was passed by that committee this morning. Durbin’s provisions would make insurance more available and affordable for the 47.0 million employees of the nation’s 5.9 million small businesses and for 14.0 million self-employed individuals.


“Skyrocketing health care costs have proved too much for many business, leaving millions of small business employees without insurance. That’s why I am heartened by the inclusion of much of my SHOP legislation in this important health care reform bill,” Durbin said. “Just as small businesses and the self-employed are the forefront of the American economy, today’s legislation places them at the forefront of our efforts to reform our health care system. This bill will help millions of small business owners and employers afford the health insurance they deserve. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass health care reform legislation this year.”


The HELP Committee’s legislation adopts a number of provisions from Durbin’s SHOP bill including:


• Allowing small businesses and those who are self-employed to band together in a statewide pool to obtain lower health insurance prices by spreading their risk over a larger number of participants.


• Providing small businesses and the self-employed with credits to help offset the cost of providing insurance.


• Banning premium variation based on health status and gender, which will ensure fairness and protect small businesses from large increases in premiums when an employee and dependent get sick.


"Senator Durbin has made major contributions to the health reform legislation that our committee is considering. He is a skillful and determined leader in improving options for small business and making coverage more affordable, and we have a better bill because of him. He's committed to quality, affordable health care for all Americans, and I look forward to working with him in coming weeks to achieve that goal we both share,” HELP Committee Chairman, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) said.


Durbin also praised a number of other provisions in the bill which will expand access to quality health coverage; give individuals group buying power; protect the so-called public option to provide competition and hold private insurers accountable; and make significant improvements to health professional programs including nursing and others in the public health workforce.


Today’s legislation will be merged with forthcoming Finance Committee legislation to make up the Senate’s health care reform package.