Logo, The Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care - Health Care Advocacy Group
(518) 462-2296
P.O. Box 1412
Albany, NY 12201

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 11, 2006

518.462.2296

Businesses rally for a Health Insurance Mandate Review Commission

Business leaders representing more than 90,00 New York businesses today presented New York State lawmakers with a petition calling for creation of a health insurance mandate review commission. The group united as part of a statewide effort to control health insurance premiums.

Members of the Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care, the Business Council of NYS, the Chamber Alliance of New York State, the New York Farm Bureau, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Printing & Imaging Association of NY have availed their constitutional right to petition the State Legislature to support passage of a Health Insurance Mandate Quality and Cost Containment Commission. The commission would be established with the sole purpose of studying the cost and medical efficacy of health insurance mandate legislation prior to legislative consideration. Health insurance mandates require employers who offer health insurance to include coverage for specified benefits as part of the "basic" insurance package, which drives up cost and diminishes employer choice and accessibility in purchasing a benefit package.

Lawmakers have earmarked a $300,000 budget allocation to fund the commission, but they have not yet passed the necessary implementing legislation. In the past month, more than 900 individual business owners signed a petition to highlight the urgency of passing this legislation before the funding expires.

“The entire region suffers when employers are forced to use limited resources to pay for health insurance mandates,” said Jeff Leland, chair of the Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care. “Knowing the long-tern impact before a mandate was a good idea when the Legislator and Governor set aside the money and it remains a good idea today. We are appealing to lawmakers to bring this matter to the forefront and adopt the implementing legislation to use the funding, before it is too late.”

The concept of a health insurance mandate review commission is already utilized in 26 other states, including our closest neighbors of Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey. According to The Council for Affordable Health Insurance, our state has 46 different health insurance mandates required in every policy sold in the state and lawmakers consider nearly 100 more every year without the benefit of an independent analysis prior to passage.

“Small business owner consistently cite the high cost of health insurance premiums as one of their primary concerns,” said Rebecca Malchow, Assistant State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “As a result, NFIB continues to support initiatives like this one that could help make insurance more affordable to small business owners and their employees. The Mandate Review Commission represents an important first step in making insurance more affordable by systematically evaluating existing mandates, as well as new ones that are proposed. This analysis could provide the foundation for eliminating some existing mandates, potentially rejecting new ones proposed, and ultimately provide the framework for a streamlined, affordable health insurance plan for small businesses.

A 2003 study commissioned by the Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care found that the cumulative impact of NY’s mandated benefits equated to 12.2 percent of the total premium costs. For family policyholders, the price tag equates to nearly $1,300 per year.

“Small business owners have carried the burden of mandate decisions for years,” said Elliott Shaw, Director of Government Affairs for the Business Council of New York State. “We are in a health insurance affordability crisis. The time for the Legislature to act is now.”

Studies have found a nexus between high premium costs and the number and cost of state health insurance mandates, New York’s chiropractic mandate law (1998) included a requirement that the Department of Insurance study the impact of this new mandate. That study, released in 2000, determined that the cost of these services accounted for as much as 2.6% of premium and concluded that there were “no savings attributable to the passage of the mandate. It has since been determined that the chiropractic mandate is one of the most expensive mandated services in New York adding more than $265 to the annual premium of every family policy in New York. In 2002, while considering a mandate to cover computer aided detection (CAD) mammograms, the legislature passed a bill that called for the Department of Insurance to formally study this issue. The report concluded that a lack of data prevented a recommendation to mandate computer aided detection screenings. Since that time new studies on CAD have been released. If a commission was in place, they might be able to effectively track scientific advances to determine if their findings in 2002 are still appropriate today.

“Because of skyrocketing health insurance costs, nearly 3 million New Yorkers are still without coverage. We need to find ways to make insurance more affordable,” said Jeff Williams, Legislative Director for New York Farm Bureau. The Commission can help shine a light on the true costs of mandates insurance coverage legislation and help ensure that the number of uninsured will not rise. The Legislature included $300,000 in this year’s state budget to support the creation of the Commission, now the Legislature needs to pass legislation to implement these reforms.”

“A strong and unified voice is the most effective way the Legislature will recognize that small businesses cannot continue to pay for health insurance mandates, especially those passed in a manner that defies any practical or common business sense,” said Peter Aust, Chairman of the Chamber Alliance of New York State. “Many of our neighboring states have successfully used this type of review commission. A similar approach in New York State is long overdue.”

The Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care, a coalition of 2,500 business owners and sole proprietors representing more than 175,000 working New Yorkers who believe that everyone should have access to basic, affordable health insurance. Members of the coalition oppose health insurance mandates, which drive up costs and contribute to New York’s growing number of uninsured. Jeff Leland, chairman of the Board of Directors, will speak for the coalition. He is also the president of Leland Paper Co. in Glen Falls.

The Business Council of New York State, Inc., is the primary advocacy group for business in New York State, supported by some 4,000 member companies and Chambers of Commerce. Director of Communications Matthew Maguire is speaking for the group.

The Chamber Alliance of New York State is an association of chambers of commerce throughout New York State representing over 90,000 businesses. It is dedicated to focusing the collective influence and efforts of chambers, while contributing to their growth and professionalism. Speaking on behalf of the group is the chairman, Peter Aust, president and CEO of The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County.

The New York Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, volunteer organization financed and controlled by families for the purpose of solving economic and public policy issues challenging the agriculture industry. With more than 35,000 member families, it is evident that Farm Bureau is the voice of New York agriculture.

The National Federation of Independent Business is the nation's leading small-business advocacy group representing the consensus views of its members in Washington and all 50 state capitals. Speaking on behalf of the group is Brian Merriam, chairman of the leadership council and owner of The Merriam Insurance Agency, Schenectady.

The Printing and Imaging Association of New York State, Inc. is the trade association representing the graphic communications industry in upstate New York, and northwestern Pennsylvania. With over 275 member companies, this trade association offers its membership a host of services, programs and support.

The Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care is the largest single-issue grassroots business coalition in New York State - 2,500 small business owners and sole proprietors representing more than 200,000 working New Yorkers. To learn more, visit our website at www.employeralliance.com.