The Kansas House passed a bill today aimed at making health insurance available to Kansans employed by small businesses that don't currently offer coverage.
The "Small Employer Incentive Bill" would authorize two or more small businesses with 25 or fewer employees to band together to offer health insurance coverage. It passed the House 112-6 and will be sent to the Senate for further debate.
Rep. Jessie Branson, D-Lawrence, who sponsored the bill and led debate during the bill's initial presentation to the House on Thursday, said the fact that there were only six votes against it was encouraging.
"It shows the Legislature is willing to take some action to address what is becoming a crisis in health care in this state," she said.
BRANSON SAID as many as 450,000 Kansans employed in small businesses currently have no health care coverage. The bill is one of a number of bills to come out of two years of study by the Legislature's Commission on Access to Services for the Medically Indigent, which Branson vice chaired.
Under the bill, an employer could contribute up to $40 a month for each employee toward a health insurance plan, and employees would be required to make a minumum contribution of 25 percent of the premium or $15 a month, whichever is less.
The bill would allow boards set up to run the group plan to increase the employer's contribution rate.
In return for providing the insurance, an employer could claim a tax credit of up to $25 a month for each employee covered.
The bill would provide employer tax credits for up to 10,000 employees, statewide. However, a limit of 1,000 employees was placed on the bill for the first year, and tax credits were limited to $300,000.
BRANSON SAID it may take some time to get the health insurance program under way.
The amount of coverage to be offered in the bill is limited if employer groups chose only to provide "Part One" coverage, which would basically be "catastrophic coverage." Part One coverage would allow for a $5,000 deductible for the employee or a $7,500 deductible for the employee's family.
But the employer group could add additional coverage and cut down the deductible by adding a "Part Two" to the plan, she said.
On the House floor, she said the lack of health insurance for people employed in small businesses is a national problem that is not being addressed by Congress. She said because of this, the states must work to come up with answers.