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[Return]2000 Releases
September 2000

CONTACTS: Frank Coleman/Linda Rozett

Friday, September 29, 2000
Chamber Hails Decline in Number of Uninsured
Warns Congressional Action Could Undercut Gains

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Chamber of Commerce welcomed the news from the Census Bureau that the number of Americans without health insurance dropped by 1.7 million from 1998 to 1999 due to expansions in employer-provided coverage, but warned congressional action could reverse that trend through legislation that expands patients’ rights to sue their health plans.

"The good news is that our nation’s strong economic growth has made it possible for more businesses to offer health care benefits to their workers," said Kate Sullivan, Chamber director for health care policy. "Congress must not pass legislation that would cause employers to drop health coverage, or the recent gains will be swiftly undone."

Employer-based groups make up 89 percent of the private health insurance market and provide fundamental financial security for more than 172 million workers, retirees and their families, according to the Chamber. Health care cost and coverage solutions should preserve the employer-based system, not replace it.

The Chamber advocates strengthening and expanding the current system through a number of initiatives including: tax incentives for individuals who buy their own health insurance including forward-funded, refundable tax credits for those with low incomes; pooled purchasing under ERISA for small businesses, individuals and the self-employed; and expanded use of medical savings accounts.

"Adding new government mandates will do nothing for the millions of Americans who still lack basic health care insurance," said Sullivan. "It’s simple health care economics 101: making employer health plans fair game for trial lawyers will increase the cost of those plans, which equals less coverage."

Employers are experiencing the highest premium increases in a decade, according to the Chamber. As costs rise, companies scale back or even drop coverage or require employees to contribute a larger portion of the cost. And, as employees’ costs rise, overall participation declines, raising the number of uninsured and raising the cost for those who remain.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.

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