The Tire Industry Association (TIA) is one of many small-business associations praising the Bush administration's support of a plan to give small businesses greater access to affordable health care benefits.
On Sept. 13, the Labor Department released a study, ``Association Health Plans-Improving Access to Affordable Quality Health Care for Small Businesses.'' Under association health plans, or AHPs, trade and industry associations which have been in operation for at least three years could pool their members to bargain with health care organizations and insurers for benefits.
The obvious advantages to AHPs, the report stated, are greater economies of scale, greater bargaining power and more efficient administration of health care plans for small employers.
``AHPs will help small businesses lower their administrative costs and receive more favorable treatment from insurers,'' it said. ``In addition, by operating under federal law, AHPs can avoid the cost of state benefit mandates.''
In a Sept. 13 press release, Becky MacDicken, TIA director of government affairs, praised President Bush and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao for their support of AHPs.
TIA receives ``frantic'' calls every week from members complaining about health care premiums that rise 50 to 100 percent in one year, Ms. MacDicken noted. ``The (Labor Department) report states what the business community has known all along,'' she said. ``AHPs will help more of America's uninsured-the small business members we represent-obtain affordable, quality health care coverage through associations.''
With an AHP law in place, TIA alone could insure at least 15,000 U.S. families, according to Ms. MacDicken.
TIA belongs to a small-business coalition that actively promotes passage of AHP legislation, she said. The coalition has sounded its message loud and clear in the House, which has passed such legislation in each of the past five Congresses. The Senate, however, has yet to even take up the issue and has nothing scheduled on it. AHPs have powerful opposition, Ms. MacDicken said.
That opposition includes health care companies that are afraid of competition from AHPs, as well as state governors who regard AHPs as a violation of states' rights to mandate benefits.
``We really hope the administration's support will get the Senate to act on AHP legislation,'' she said.