Issue: Health Care

Whose Side are You On?
Small Business' or the Insurance Industry's?

WASHINGTON - The American Small Business Alliance has called on the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) to explain how that organization - in billing itself as the "voice of small business" - can go against the wishes of the vast majority of small business executives by opposing the Patient's Bill of Rights. A national survey shows overwhelming support in the small business community for the provisions in the legislation.

"Again and again and again, the NFIB is carrying the insurance industry's water, while compromising the interests of small business," said ASBA President Joel Marks. "The natural question is: Who is the NFIB fighting for?"

Diane Warren, owner of Katzinger's Delicatessen in Columbus, Ohio, said many business people are tired of groups like the NFIB that have become little more than mouthpieces for the insurance industry. "The NFIB long-ago stopped being an independent voice for the business community. They have tied all small business interests to those of the largest and most dominating industries and have abandoned the real needs of small employers like me."

Marks noted that a national poll conducted by the Kaiser-Harvard Program on Health Policy, in conjunction with the ASBA Education Fund, showed small business executives clearly want the provisions found in the Patients' Bill of Rights, are willing to pay for them, won't drop coverage even if they lead to higher premiums, and reject the idea that these protections lead to too much government involvement in health care.

For instance, 89 percent of small business executives surveyed support a law requiring greater disclosure of health plan information, 88 percent support an independent appeals process for denied claims, and 75 percent support the right to see a specialist without prior approval. On the issue of liability, 61 percent of small business executives favored giving people the right to sue their health plan, with 51 percent still showing support if such a measure would lead to higher premiums. Sixty-six percent favor this measure to "ensure people get the care they need," while only 25 percent oppose granting the right to sue as "unnecessary government involvement in health care."

Marks also called the NFIB/insurance industry claim that the Patient's Bill of Rights somehow would allow individual small businesses to be sued "a scare tactic" just like their assertion that such a law would lead to millions of people losing their health coverage. The Kaiser-Harvard/ASBAEF health care survey showed that fewer than 1 percent of small business executives might drop coverage if rates go up as predicted.

The American Small Business Alliance has stood out as the only small business organization in support of these sensible and popular reforms. The ASBA believes the Patient's Bill of Rights will benefit small businesses by making it easier to compare plans, by reducing the risk and complexity of buying insurance, by leveling the playing field with big business, and by giving employees a system that better responds to their needs and makes them healthier and more productive workers.

"Simply put, the Patient's Bill of Rights is good for small business and it's clearly something the small business community wants," Marks said. "If the NFIB were true representatives of small business and not just shills for the insurance industry, they'd support it, too."

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