The U.S. House of Representatives is mulling legislation aimed at making affordable healthcare coverage a reality for small businesses. Known as the Small Business CHOICE Act of 2008 (H.R. 6582), the measure was introduced by Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), who chairs the House Small Business Committee, and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA). CHOICE stands for Cooperative for Healthcare Options to Improve Coverage for Employees.
According to the lawmakers, the bill would also help curb the rising costs of health-insurance plans for entrepreneurs. And it would "lessen the volatility of premiums and add important incentives helping small firms expand coverage for working families." Noting that small businesses face "astronomical prices and little flexibility in the current healthcare system," Velazquez said the CHOICE Act "would keep small firms from having to choose between providing health coverage to their employees and keeping their doors open."
The measure would provide a refundable tax credit of 65 percent for small businesses that have up to 100 employees and that offer a small business wellness program. The legislation would minimize risks for insurers by letting small firms pool their employees with those of other businesses in voluntary health cooperatives. That would give entrepreneurs the benefit of negotiating for better rates for their employees and themselves. Self-employed individuals would save $5,000 per year on health care, the bill's sponsors say, and small firms would save more than a third.