The Senate held a "cloture" vote to remove parliamentary roadblocks and allow its members to vote on S. 1955, the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act of 2005. This legislation would allow small businesses to create fully insured Small-Business Health Plans (SBHPs) that would lower health-care costs and increase access by providing increased competition and choices for employers looking for affordable health coverage. The vote failed by a vote of 55 to 43, thus ending Senate consideration of S. 1955. It is unclear if the Senate will reconsider S. 1955 this year.
"It is disappointing that small businesses and their employees will have to wait longer for affordable, accessible health care reform," said Steven C. Anderson, NRA president and ceo. "Small businesses - including our nation's 925,000 restaurants - struggle with excessive costs in providing health benefits to their employees."
Approximately 45 million Americans are without health insurance, and studies show that 60% of the uninsured either work for a small business or are a dependent of someone who does. Unless dramatically increasing health care costs are curbed, many employers may be forced to eliminate health benefits for their employees.
The National Restaurant Association said that 70% of the restaurant industry, the largest private sector employer in the country, is comprised of small businesses and recent surveys show that restaurateurs are deeply affected by the rising cost of health insurance.
SBHPs would allow small business owners to join together across state lines to purchase health insurance as a group; providing affordable health care through economies of scale, greater bargaining power and flexibility in health benefit design. By removing barriers to affordable coverage, this legislation will also greatly increase competition in health insurance markets, with substantial benefits to consumers.
"Although it is discouraging that debate has been terminated on this important issue, we commend Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Conrad Burns (R-MT) for their continued commitment and support to try and bring legislation on SBHPs to a vote in the Senate for the first time in 12 years. We will continue to work on behalf of restaurants and small businesses to continue to find solutions to the rising cost of health care and increased access for those who are uninsured," Anderson said.