Chamber forum highlights insurance bill pros, cons

March 14, 2004|GARY MOYERS

Danville/Boyle County Chamber of Commerce executive director Paula Fowler Kilby saw Thursday's issue forum as a a first step for the organization in providing information on issues that affect its members.

The first forum presented pros and cons of House Bill 372, which would change certain provisions of the state's health insurance regulations. Many of those changes would affect small employers and associations.

"We put this one together in a great hurry," said Kilby, who took over the top role for the chamber earlier this year. "Actually, our turnout was pretty good considering the short notice we were forced to give members. We were able to pull this together completely only two days before the forum itself."

Approximately 20 people attended the early-morning meeting at City Hall to hear Bob Weiss, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association, and Jim Simpson, chief operating officer for the Kentucky State Chamber, present both sides of the issue.


Simpson said the state chamber opposes the bill, mainly because he says it will not save money on health care costs, but would merely redistribute the expenses.

"We have 430 members with 10 or fewer employees, and another 2,500 member associates," said Simpson. "We're taking the stand that this bill would force companies with 11 or more employees to bear the costs for those in the 2-10 employee range."

Simpson said that would happen if the bill allows high-cost employees at small businesses in association health plans to be dumped into the Kentucky Access pool, which was created for people in the individual market who cannot obtain health insurance. The costs for those Access members, Simpson said, would be born by the remainder of policy holders.

Simpson said he is concerned that passage of the bill would create an uneven playing field for association plans and the rest of the market, likening it to the problems caused by HB 250 in the late 90s, which eventually caused most insurers to leave the state because of new regulations and requirements.

Weiss, however, said the bill would allow employers with 10 or fewer employees to survive the skyrocketing costs of providing employee health insurance by giving them options, including placing high-risk members in the Access pool.

"The average size of businesses in our association is three employees," said Weiss. "Anthem is the primary carrier for those associations, and as rates go up and administrative costs go up, the small employer is forced to use more and more revenue to pay insurance costs. It's driving many of them out of business."

Weiss said the bill is about giving employers choices and the opportunity to bring insurance costs down.

HB 372 has passed the Kentucky House, and is now in the Senate for consideration.

Kilby said the local chamber plans to sponsor more of these educational forums in the future.

"This is one way we can provide a needed service to our members," she said. "Forums like this provide them with the opportunity to become educated about bills that affect them directly."

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