ARLINGTON, Va. — Paul T. Stalknecht, president and CEO of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), has issued a statement in support of the bipartisan "2003 Small Business Health Fairness Act" being introduced today by Reps. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.), Cal Dooley (D-Calif.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas), and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.).

"ACCA applauds Representatives Fletcher, Dooley, Johnson, and Velazquez for introducing this legislation to help address the skyrocketing health care costs that our small community-based contractors have seen for the last several years. ACCA's 4,600 members are clamoring for federal legislation that will allow them to both lower their health insurance premiums and continue to provide their employees with access to quality health care," stated Stalknecht.

"Affordable health care is the number one priority for our contractor members, their employees, and their families. A survey of ACCA members conducted last year showed that on average, small contracting businesses are paying over 60 percent more for health insurance than they were just three years ago. Almost all of these contractors employ fewer than 25 people, and they are being forced to either reduce insurance coverage or stop offering it altogether just to keep their business doors open.

"The key to expanding access to affordable health care is more market competition and allowing small business to pool together across state lines, thus increasing their purchase power. Fortune 500 companies and large labor unions are already allowed to do this. Shouldn't America's small businesses have the same option?

"Over 24 million of the nation’s 41 million uninsured reside in a family employed by a small business. This is unacceptable and ACCA members believe that this legislation is a necessary first step in addressing this problem. Insurance carriers who oppose this much-needed legislation need to understand that the status quo they defend is pushing American families into the ranks of the uninsured. Association Health Plans will provide more coverage, at a lower price, to the small businesses on which our nation depends.

"Through the introduction of this legislation, Representatives Fletcher, Dooley, Johnson, and Velazquez have offered us an opportunity to relieve some of the burden on small business owners. ACCA and the HVACR contracting industry support this bill and the companion legislation in the Senate that is slated to be introduced shortly by Republican Senators Olympia Snowe (Maine), Kit Bond (Mo.), and Jim Talent (Mo.). We look forward to working with members of the House and Senate for quick passage of this legislation. The time to act is now."

Publication date: 02/10/2003