Ky. Gov.’s Small Business Health Initiative Passes House

February 18, 2005

A legislative initiative promoted by Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher has successfully passed the state House of Representatives. The Governor thanked the House and its leadership for acting in a bipartisan manner and quickly passing House Bill 278, the Small Business Insurance Relief Act.

“Small businesses are critical to economic growth efforts in Kentucky,” Gov. Fletcher explained. “We must alleviate the exorbitant health insurance costs on entrepreneurs and their employees.” The Governor commended Representative Tommy Thompson and Representative Brandon Smith for their leadership on HB 278.

Last year, small employers’ premiums increased 15.5 percent, compared to 13.2 percent for larger employers. In response, Gov. Fletcher began working with small business leaders, insurance representatives and other segments of the health care industry to develop the Small Business Insurance Relief Act.

“Small businesses in Kentucky have been forced to absorb skyrocketing costs or pass them along to their employees,” Gov. Fletcher said. “This has resulted in an unfortunate and unacceptable loss of employee health coverage.”

Representative Tommy Thompson (D-Owensboro) was the primary sponsor of the bill. “The strong bipartisan vote today in the House of Representatives recognizes the critical nature of this issue,” Thompson said, “and the need to provide immediate relief for the small business sector of our state.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Representative Brandon Smith (R-Hazard), said, “The passage of the Small Business Access Program shows that we are finally serious about bringing relief to the thousands of small business owners throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. They are the heart and soul of our communities and employ hundreds of thousands of our people. I was proud to sponsor this bill and I’m honored to work with Governor Fletcher to finally recognize the need for more affordable insurance for these employers.”

The Small Business Insurance Relief Act includes:

· The Small Business Access Program, a pool to help smaller employers (2-10 employees) who provide coverage to at least one individual with a high cost condition

· The basic health benefit plan, which makes insurance more affordable for employers with 50 or fewer employees by tailoring benefits to specific needs such as physician, pharmacy, home health and hospital services

· A uniform credentialing application, which will create a uniform system for physicians to receive privileges with insurers or hospitals

· The consumer right-to-know provision, which will create an advisory committee to assist the Cabinet for Health and Family Services with making consumers more aware of the costs of health care.

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