Help may soon be on the way for small businesses in the form of a new bill in Annapolis that would help bring down the high cost of providing health insurance to employees.Legislation heard Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee would leverage federal funds to be used as annual subsidies, and the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange would establish eligibility for the program.The bill does two things: It allows small business and nonprofit organizations to afford to offer health insurance, and it will add more working people to the health insurance rolls.| PDFs: House Bill 709/Senate Bill 632: Maryland Health Benefit Exchange — Small Business and Nonprofit Health Insurance Subsidies ProgramSupporters consider the legislation a lifeline that will help small businesses recruit and keep employees. They also say more people will have health insurance, which will lower the cost of health care and curb usage of hospital emergency rooms.”Ensuring that every single business can afford health insurance is more important than ever,” said the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Katie Fry Hester, D-District 9, whose district encompasses portions of Carroll and Howard counties.The bill will invest $45 million in federal funding into a five-year state subsidy program for small businesses and nonprofits that have fewer than 25 full-time employees. Health insurance will be offered to them through the Maryland Health Connection. The legislation is expected to benefit businesses owned by people of color, supporters said.”This is a matter of equity. Maryland has the highest per capita rate of businesses owned by people of color in this entire country. As a state, we see profound disparities in health outcomes for people of color,” said the bill’s House sponsor, Baltimore City Delegate Robbyn Lewis, D-District 46.In Maryland, 37% of small employers offer health coverage compared to 95% of large employers. There’s wide bipartisan support for the measure.”This bill builds employer loyalty at a time when businesses are trying to recruit and hire workers. What better way than to say, ‘Here’s a great HMO plan which will get you in to see your general practitioner so you don’t enter a hospital portal through your emergency room,” said Rick Weldon, president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.”These plans cover routine and preventative health benefits, including doctor visits, prescriptions, mental health services,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said.”These funds will make it far more affordable for employers to provide this benefit to the people who work for them, and that will lead to more working people signing up for health insurance,” said Baltimore City Delegate Brooke Lierman, D-District 46.No one spoke in opposition when the bill was heard in the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

Help may soon be on the way for small businesses in the form of a new bill in Annapolis that would help bring down the high cost of providing health insurance to employees.

Legislation heard Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee would leverage federal funds to be used as annual subsidies, and the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange would establish eligibility for the program.

The bill does two things: It allows small business and nonprofit organizations to afford to offer health insurance, and it will add more working people to the health insurance rolls.

| PDFs: House Bill 709/Senate Bill 632: Maryland Health Benefit Exchange — Small Business and Nonprofit Health Insurance Subsidies Program

Supporters consider the legislation a lifeline that will help small businesses recruit and keep employees. They also say more people will have health insurance, which will lower the cost of health care and curb usage of hospital emergency rooms.

“Ensuring that every single business can afford health insurance is more important than ever,” said the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Katie Fry Hester, D-District 9, whose district encompasses portions of Carroll and Howard counties.

The bill will invest $45 million in federal funding into a five-year state subsidy program for small businesses and nonprofits that have fewer than 25 full-time employees. Health insurance will be offered to them through the Maryland Health Connection. The legislation is expected to benefit businesses owned by people of color, supporters said.

“This is a matter of equity. Maryland has the highest per capita rate of businesses owned by people of color in this entire country. As a state, we see profound disparities in health outcomes for people of color,” said the bill’s House sponsor, Baltimore City Delegate Robbyn Lewis, D-District 46.

In Maryland, 37% of small employers offer health coverage compared to 95% of large employers. There’s wide bipartisan support for the measure.

“This bill builds employer loyalty at a time when businesses are trying to recruit and hire workers. What better way than to say, ‘Here’s a great HMO plan which will get you in to see your general practitioner so you don’t enter a hospital portal through your emergency room,” said Rick Weldon, president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.

“These plans cover routine and preventative health benefits, including doctor visits, prescriptions, mental health services,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said.

“These funds will make it far more affordable for employers to provide this benefit to the people who work for them, and that will lead to more working people signing up for health insurance,” said Baltimore City Delegate Brooke Lierman, D-District 46.

No one spoke in opposition when the bill was heard in the House Health and Government Operations Committee.