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Expanding Affordable Health Care Coverage for America’s Workers

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Virginia Foxx (R-NC), held a hearing today to examine legislative proposals to improve health care coverage and lower costs for working families. Part of a broader effort to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered solutions, members discussed the Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R. 1101), as well as draft proposals to protect the ability of employers to self-insure and preserve popular employee wellness programs.

“We are at a crossroads right now when it comes to our nation’s health care. When people — through no fault of their own — are experiencing pain and havoc created by the Obamacare death spiral, the only responsible thing to do is provide relief,” Chairwoman Foxx said. “We simply cannot continue down the unsustainable path we are on and sit back and watch as this fundamentally flawed law collapses under its own weight.”

A united Republican government isn't sitting back, and America’s job creators aren’t either. In the wake of this failed government takeover of health care, employers are looking for ways to lower health care costs for their employees and expressing interest in reforms that expand affordable coverage and promote a healthy workforce.

Reflecting on the discussion draft to protect the ability of employers to self-insure, Jay Ritchie, chairman of the Self-Insurance Institute of America, Inc., explained how self-insurance provides a unique, alternative option for employers who want to provide health care coverage for their workers.

“Self-insurance offers employers across the country a platform to effectively and efficiently manage their healthcare expenditures ... to improve outcomes and eliminate waste,” Ritchie said. “The self-insured market is focused on creating cost-effective and beneficial outcomes for employee[s].”

He went on to say the draft proposal would “preclude harmful regulatory action that would limit access to stop-loss coverage, ensuring that many groups seeking to self-insure are able to access the necessary tools to do so.”

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, discussed the need to increase the bargaining power of small businesses in the health insurance marketplace in order to help lower costs for employees. He explained the important role association health plans play achieving that.

“Strategies taken by the Affordable Care Act … have not helped smaller employees. Steps must be taken to better support these smaller businesses in providing coverage. Association health plans are an important answer,” he said.

By allowing smaller employers to band together, both within and across state lines, the Small Business Health Fairness Act would “level the playing field for small businesses,” Hurst said. “Employees of small businesses deserve the same marketplace rights to obtain comparable coverage at comparable rates as those that work for big business and big government.”

When it comes to promoting a healthy workforce, Allison Klausner, an employee benefits expert, emphasized the important role wellness programs serve as a “cornerstone of healthcare reform.”

“Not only are these programs important for achieving better health outcomes for employees and their families, they also have the potential to increase employee productivity, improve workforce morale and engagement, and reduce health care spending,” she said.

Klausner went on to explain how regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have imposed “unnecessary burdens” on employers, and she expressed support for reforms reflected in the draft Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, such as providing a “consistent federal policy and a regulatory framework that is minimally burdensome while protecting individuals from discrimination.”

“The unnecessary burdens imposed on employers by multiple incongruent regulatory structures stifle adoption and innovation of wellness programs. We are concerned the future of workplaces wellness programs is at risk,” Klausner said. “We look forward to working with the committee to achieve a consistent federal regulatory scheme for workplace wellness programs.”

As Congress works to provide Americans with relief from Obamacare, these positive reforms are just a few of the steps we can take to transition to a patient-centered health care system that delivers more choices, lower costs, and greater control for working families.

“We must change course,” Chairwoman Foxx said. “That’s why House Republicans are on a rescue mission not only to save families struggling under Obamacare, but to deliver the meaningful health care reforms the American people have demanded for years.”

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