WASHINGTON — With its membership reporting significant increases in health insurance premiums, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association (PHCC) used its annual Legislative Day on March 20 to lobby Congress to allow trade associations to provide affordable health care insurance programs to their members.

On that day, PHCC members visited their Representatives’ and Senators’ offices in support of the Association Health Plans bill (H.R. 660), which would allow trade associations such as PHCC to offer health insurance to members at lower rates through the power of group purchasing.

The PHCC members conducted their lobbying efforts following a morning program featuring speakers from the House, Senate, and Small Business Administration.

The first speaker, Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.), told Legislative Day participants that small businesses across the nation pay approximately 30 to 50 percent more than a large business to cover the insurance costs of employees. At the same time, there are approximately 8.5 million people who currently are not covered by health insurance.

Fletcher, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, "This bill is critically important for the economy. It will reduce the number of uninsured, and it will give small business owners the opportunity to offer affordable insurance." Fletcher said the House Education and Workforce Committee will consider the bill in the next couple of weeks.

All Legislative Day speakers urged those present to let their voices be known that day and throughout the year. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) urged PHCC members to "Be involved. Raise your voice. Educate the Congress. Help us make decisions." Tom Sullivan, chief counsel, Office of Advocacy, Small Business Administration, said, "Do not let your lawmakers rest until they pass laws that help small businesses succeed."

Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), a developer from California, presented his perspective of the construction industry, stating, "If you are in the construction industry today, you're fighting for your life." Miller said different special interest groups and regulations are slowing down construction projects. And in some cases, situations are convincing some builders not to build because of fear of litigation, especially involving mold.

PHCC members' lobbying efforts are continuing after Legislative Day with the sending of letters to their congressional representatives supporting the Association Health Plans legislation. For a copy of a sample letter, go to www.phccweb.org/governmentrelations/ContentItem.cfm?ContentItemID=219, or call 800-533-7694.

Publication date: 03/31/2003