LOS ANGELES - Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-34) updated 130 members of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce last month about current proposals before Congress to reform our nation's health insurance system."Reforming our nation's health care system is both a moral and a fiscal imperative," Roybal-Allard said. "To do this successfully, most people agree we need to provide universal access to quality care and slow the escalating costs of our national health care system. As difficult as the task is, we have no choice but to proceed if we are to become a healthier and more prosperous nation." The congresswoman explained why health care reform is critical for families in her congressional district. "An estimated 259,000 of our neighbors are uninsured - 40 percent of everyone living in this congressional district. An estimated 1,120 families filed health care-related bankruptcies in 2008, caused primarily by health care costs not covered by insurance," she said. "Each year, more than 4,000 of our seniors face the Medicare Part D 'donut hole' and are forced to pay the entire costs of their medications. With an average annual household income of only $35,932, my constituents simply can no longer afford the status quo as health care costs rise beyond reach, and unemployment increasingly threatens any employer-based insurance that they might have." The congresswoman also explained how small businesses in the Los Angeles region would benefit from the legislation being considered in the House, known as the America's Affordable Health Choices Act. The proposal would extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and bring "much needed stability and security" to those with health insurance already. The bill is also designed to lower administrative costs for businesses that provide coverage by offering affordable large group rates while maintaining stable pricing from year to year. During her remarks, Roybal-Allard said: "Since all members of Congress recognize the critical role small business plays in our local and national economy, every effort is being made to make sure reforms help small businesses by bringing much needed competition and affordability to the insurance market. "The bottom line, according to most experts, is that health insurance reform will greatly benefit small businesses. Relative to their larger counterparts, these firms continue to face severe disadvantages in the health insurance marketplace. Insurance costs for small businesses have increased 129 percent since the year 2000 and small business employees pay an average of 18 percent more in premiums with much higher deductibles than their counterparts working in larger businesses. "As a result, the percentage of small businesses that offer health insurance to their employees has dropped almost 8 percent this decade and 60 percent of America's uninsured - or 28 million - are small business owners, workers and their families. "While mid-sized and large businesses would be required to offer health coverage to their employees or pay an 8 percent payroll fee to help subsidize their coverage in the Exchange, 96 percent of small business owners will not be subject to the health care surcharge. Furthermore, employers with 25 or fewer employees and average wages of less than $40,000 will receive up to a 50 percent credit to help pay health insurance premiums for their employees. "A new report by the Council of Economic Advisors examined the likely impacts of the health care reform bill on small businesses and found that the proposed reforms will spur entrepreneurial activity, increase the pool of potential small business employees, and reduce absenteeism by promoting better health outcomes. "Given the enormity of the task before us, it is a certainty that no one person will be completely happy with the final product. But I do believe that the America's Affordable Health Choices Act would be a strong first step to solving many of the problems that face our health care system today. We simply cannot afford to miss this opportunity because the need for reform is so urgent and the cost of doing nothing is so great. "By working together, we can reform our broken health care system and give every American family the peace of mind that comes with affordable, quality health care." The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce serves a diverse membership of businesses of every size, from nearly every industry, in every community across Los Angeles County. The Chamber represents more than 1,600 members, more than 722,430 employees and businesses from more than 35 industry sectors throughout Los Angeles County.
********** Published: September 18, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 22