Health plans for the little guy

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The Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration and several members of Congress are backing legislation to give small business owners and employees access to health insurance through Association Health Plans (AHPs). The Small Business Health Fairness Act would allow employers to band together across state lines, through trade and professional associations to purchase health insurance. It would create AHPs that give small businesses greater bargaining power, economies of scale, administrative efficiencies and the benefits of a uniform regulatory structure, thereby lowering costs, the Bush administration says.

The legislation also provides strong protections through federal certification standards and oversight to protect workers against abusive health plans. The act “will help address the problem of fraudulent health plans by offering plans that are bonafide, cost-effective alternatives,” says Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.