Committee Okays Health Insurance Bills

James L. Seward

March 21, 2005

The New York State Senate Standing Committee on Insurance approved four bills today that would make health insurance more affordable for employers and help reduce the ranks of the state’s 3 million uninsured.

Senate bills 79, 414, 1372 and 1405 were all approved by the panel and sent to the full senate for its consideration.

"Health insurance costs continue to rise for all employers and employees," Senator Seward, chairman of the committee, said. "For many New Yorkers, health insurance isn’t even affordable and the odds of getting it are worse than winning the lottery. The bills we have passed and sent to the floor are common sense measures designed to make health insurance more available and more affordable."

Seward’s bills are based on hearings and a report released in 2003 entitled "Strategies for Affordable Coverage," which highlighted the growing gap between workers with health insurance and those without coverage. All four bills are designed to make health insurance more affordable for employers to offer to their employees.

The bills are:

*S. 79 (Sen. Larkin) -- Encourages the formation of health insurance purchasing cooperatives for small businesses so that employers have a choice of plans;
*S. 414 (Sen. Larkin) -- Broadens eligibility for participation in the Healthy NY insurance plan by removing the requirement that an employer stop offering health insurance to his or her employees for the 12 months immediately prior;
*S. 1372 (Sen. Seward) -- Creates a process to review the cost and benefit of a proposed health insurance mandate prior to its enactment;
*S. 1405 (Sen. Seward) -- Creates "Freedom Health Insurance" policies with more options for employers and employees. The measure also provides a tax credit to employers and individuals for 50 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums. The proposal is included in the senate Republican majority’s budget resolution.

"Taken together, these bills will go a long way toward making health insurance less costly for employers, workers and more available to everyone so that we can broaden participation in health insurance and give families and workers the comfort and peace of mind that a good health insurance plan provides," Seward concluded.