WASHINGTON, March 17, 1999 -- As the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee prepares to mark up the Patients' Bill of Rights today, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) called on the committee to strike down any measures that would increase the costs of health care.

"The high cost of health care is the No. 1 problem for small business. If the committee wants to increase the number of Americans with health care coverage, it will reject any proposals that would increase costs for small business owners and their employees," said Dan Danner, NFIB's vice president of federal public policy.

NFIB is opposed to the Patients' Bill of Rights, introduced by U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., that would increase the liability for health plans in benefits claims disputes and expand the definition of what is considered "medically necessary care."

"If these amendments pass, they would have a devastating effect on employers and employees, as well as the health care system as a whole," said Danner.

"While few would benefit from these amendments, the costs of the requirements would be significant for many," said Danner. "Many small business owners wouldn't be able to absorb the costs of implementing the additional mandated coverage, forcing them to stop offering health care coverage altogether."

"The goal for health care reform should be to increase the number of insured, not decrease it," concluded Danner.

CONTACT: McCall Cameron at 202.554.9000.