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Gov. Rendell Says PA ABC Will Help Low-Wage Small Businesses Pay for Health Coverage for Employees

Thursday, May 22, 2008 General News J E 4
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Grants Will Help Firms That Already Offer Insurance to Workers



GREENSBURG, Pa., May 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today said nearly 10,000 uninsured adults in Westmoreland County - many of whom who work for small businesses and a quarter of which are on a waiting list to receive health care coverage - urgently need the state Senate to approve a plan to help them gain access to health insurance.



He said small businesses that currently offer insurance would also benefit from the plan's $42 million in grants to ensure they maintain their commitment to providing health care coverage.



"I am here today to let all small businesses know that the House-approved PA Access to Basic Care can help them - whether they currently offer health insurance to their employees or not," the Governor said while visiting Greensburg to discuss the challenges of uninsured small businesses and the plight of uninsured individuals at Community Action of Westmoreland County.



"The vast majority of Pennsylvania's uninsured adults have full-time jobs and many are employed by small businesses that struggle to make a profit. More and more, these small businesses are forced to choose between continuing to pay hefty insurance premiums and letting their employees go without insurance.



"For the past year and a half, I've heard from countless small business owners who have maintained insurance coverage for their employees, despite the cost, and asked what we could do to help them - and PA ABC provides the answer. In addition to offering coverage for uninsured small businesses, PA ABC provides $42 million in 'CARE grants' to help small businesses that already provide health care for their employees."



The Governor called for passage of Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care, a health care plan that would be offered through the private market and subsidized by state and federal governments for small, low-wage businesses without insurance and uninsured individuals.



CARE grants will help relieve the burden on businesses who are offering insurance by providing up to 25 percent of the cost of health coverage credited to the employer, as long as that employer meets the eligibility requirements for ABC and carries a tax liability. The employer's package can be a traditional insurance package or some sort of health savings account.



"Pennsylvania will be one of the first states in the nation to provide financial assistance to our small employers who are doing the right thing by providing insurance to their employees," the Governor said.



The Governor cited a recent study that showed a decrease in the total number of employers providing health insurance in Pennsylvania is especially troublesome. Between 2000 and 2006, more workers in Pennsylvania lost employer-provided health insurance than workers in any other state, except California.



"Public opinion polls show increasing anxiety about the current health system, as more employers shed coverage benefits and premium costs outpace inflation each year," Governor Rendell said. "If the remaining key components of the Prescription for Pennsylvania are not enacted, especially ABC and the insurance reforms, even more working Pennsylvanians are likely to lose coverage.



"That's why I favor grants that help small businesses cover their health care costs. It will help stem the erosion of employer-provided health care."



PA ABC will also help eligible small employers who do not offer health benefits. By signing up for ABC, the employer, the employee and the commonwealth will share the cost of the insurance. The employer will be required to contribute at least 50 percent of the total monthly cost for each employee or not less than $150 dollars, the employee will have a month
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