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IFA pushes for new health care bill

WASHINGTON In the wake of Scott Brown's upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race Tuesday, the International Franchise Association is urging federal lawmakers to forge new bipartisan legislation that will make health care insurance more affordable for small businesses.

"Our message all along was to start over," said David French, vice president of government affairs for the IFA. "We believe the White House and congressional leadership have crafted a package that is profoundly unpopular and damaging to small businesses. But we see the Massachusetts result as an opportunity to finally get Congress' attention."

The surprise election of Brown, a Republican, to Sen. Edward Kennedy's former seat, gave the GOP 41 votes in the Senate, thereby ending the Democrats' filibuster-proof supermajority of 60 and leaving the future of President Obama's health care reform package uncertain.

The election, French said, demonstrated to many lawmakers that the partisan approach to health care reform "was heading down a road that would have eventually been disastrous. This is a time to start over."

While some Democrats had been holding out hope that the House would accept the Senate bill as written, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that there was not enough Democratic support to pass the Senate's version of the president's health care legislation in the House.

The prime consideration in the House and Senate bills was access to coverage, not how the economic viability of employers was being impacted, French said.

"While access is important, it doesn't work if it puts business in a losing situation," he said.

The congressional bills also presumed that no employer wants to offer health care insurance, French continued.

"That is so wrong. Most know they have to take care of labor," he said. "Health insurance is one way of being competitive for quality labor."

The IFA said it supports health care insurance reform that, among other things, will ensure coverage to Americans regardless of pre-existing conditions; provides tax credits and subsidies to help small businesses afford to offer plans; and create national or regional exchanges like association health care plans, where small businesses can pool together.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

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