Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge a "no" vote on H.R. 525 and a "yes" vote on the Kind-Andrews substitute.
This debate is, frankly, misdirected. The question is not who recognizes that there is a health care crisis in this country and who does not. This is not a contest to see who among us truly understands that small businesses are finding themselves in an increasingly difficult predicament when it comes to providing health care insurance for their employees.
We all care about this issue, and we all have constituents who need help affording health care insurance. Small businesses, which do face unique challenges across the board compared to large corporations, are the backbone of our economy; and we should be doing more to help them. And providing better and more health care coverage is one of the biggest problems they face today.
So I ask our friends on the other side of the aisle, why do we have before us a bill that does nothing to really address the problem for small businesses and very well may end up hurting the people who we say we are trying to help? There is a reason why the National Governors Association and 41 attorneys general are against this bill. There is a reason why numerous advocacy associations, consumer groups, and others oppose this misguided legislation.
This bill has been hailed as the answer to covering many of the 45 million Americans who are currently uninsured; but in truth, a very small percentage of the population would be helped in any way. This is because association health plans would help a relatively small number of the youngest and healthiest among us who will gain access to cheap minimalist plans. But that would come at the expense of the vast majority of workers whose premiums would actually increase. It would also make it nearly impossible for those with previous health challenges or chronic diseases to obtain any coverage at all.
Let me give an example. I am the cochair of the bipartisan Diabetes Caucus in Congress. Forty-six States have mandated that insurance plans must cover diabetic supplies? Why? One little vial of strips, test strips costs $50, and insurance companies simply were not giving that benefit in the past. That is why 46 of the 50 States said, you have to pay for this. Now, if diabetics test their blood, long-term complications like heart disease, kidney failure, end-stage renal disease, all of those are eliminated; but they have to have insurance coverage for these supplies. This legislation wipes out that requirement. It says, you do not have to pay for that; you do not have to follow that State law. That is not only wrong for those beneficiaries who are diabetic; it is shortsighted in the long run for the cost of our health care system.
We need to address the real access and affordability issues that affect employees of small businesses, and the only way we can do that is by passing the Kind-Andrews substitute. This substitute will give small employers the ability to provide the same access to health benefits as Federal employees. It will also allow States to establish small employer health pools. It would also minimize adverse selection and use state-licensed insurers without preempting State laws. Sounds like a good substitute to me. Quick Info H.R. 525: Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005 Last Action: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Status: Passed House (100% of Republicans supporting, 82% of Democrats opposing.) If we pass the substitute, we can make a true impact on the status of millions of uninsured workers across this country; and for that reason, I urge a "no" vote on H.R. 525 and a "yes" vote on the substitute.