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NRA endorses reintroduced health care measure

WASHINGTON The National Restaurant Association Wednesday voiced its support for the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, Act, saying the measure would help make healthcare coverage more affordable and accessible for small businesses and their employees.

The bipartisan measure, S.979, was introduced last week in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark. A companion bill, H.R.850, was introduced Wednesday in the House of Representatives. It is sponsored by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., John Barrow, D-Ga., and Bill Young, R-Fla.

The SHOP Act seeks to reduce healthcare costs for small businesses and their employees by allowing them to band together in a nationwide or statewide pool to obtain lower premiums. The legislation also would provide business owners with an annual tax credit of up to $1,000 per employee and $2,000 for family coverage if they pay for 60 percent of the premiums.

In addition, SHOP would ban healthcare status rating to protect businesses from large rate increases because a single employee becomes ill, and keep prices low by offering a range of private health plans that have to compete for business.

“Access to affordable health-care coverage is one of our members’ top concerns,” said Beth Johnson, the NRA’s executive vice president of public affairs. “We are encouraged that the SHOP Act will provide relief for restaurants, alleviating the volatility of insurance premiums for small businesses and making coverage more affordable for owners and their employees.”

Asimilar act, introduced in 2008, died when the 110th session of Congress ended.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

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