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Stefanik details health care laws she supports

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro (Photo provided)

PLATTSBURGH — Rep. Elise Stefanik is supporting bills she believes will improve health care as the issue continues to swirl as a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.

Stefanik, R-Willsboro, is a co-sponsor for H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, designed to help small businesses join together through association health plans to provide employees better access to affordable health care.

“Common-sense fix”

“Whenever I travel throughout the district, constituents and businesses regularly tell me about the problems they are having due to high costs due to the Affordable Care Act,” Stefanik said in a news release. “As we work to repeal and replace this broken law, we must enact reforms that will lower costs and help our businesses thrive.

“This common-sense health-care fix would allow small businesses to band together and give them the same advantages larger businesses have when purchasing health care.

“This will help expand access as well as lower costs for families and businesses, a win-win for the North Country.”

Strength in numbers

Stefanik explained that due to their size and economies of scale, large businesses and labor organizations have enhanced ability to negotiate on behalf of employees for high-quality health care at more affordable costs.

By offering a qualified group-health plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, large employers and labor organizations are also exempt from a myriad of state rules and regulations on health insurance.

Small businesses, however, don’t have the same bargaining power, the congresswoman noted. They are unable to band together to increase their leverage in the health-insurance marketplace.

By allowing them to join together through association health plans, small businesses can have greater ability to negotiate for lower health-care costs for their employees.

Fairness Act

Stefanik said the Small Business Health Fairness Act, which she co-sponsors, would:

¯ Increase small businesses’ bargaining power with insurance providers and put them on a more level playing field with larger companies and unions.

¯ Expand affordable coverage for working families who want to purchase health insurance through their employer.

¯ Lower administrative costs for small businesses that face limited resources and want to provide health insurance to their employees.

Shows promise

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said chambers across the nation have long been looking for ways to assist small businesses and the self-employed with health insurance.

“In New York state, however, we have never been permitted to work with insurers to develop products that are specifically responsive to the needs of this population,” Douglas said.

“We were in support of such an opportunity before ACA, and we thank Congresswoman Stefanik for presenting this concept as part of expected reforms.

“We already work actively with health-insurance services at several other large upstate chambers and can foresee the potential for some more cost-effective plans if the pathway is opened nationally for such an approach.”

Keep “good parts”

In addition to searching for ways to help small businesses, Stefanik also co-sponsored legislation designed to preserve some aspects of the ACA that she favors.

She has co-sponsored H.R. 1121, the Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act of 2017. This legislation aims to reaffirm guaranteed health care access, guarantee enrollees can’t have benefits excluded from a plan due to a pre-existing condition and ensure patients won’t pay more based on their health-care status, a news release from Stefanik’s office said.

“I have said all along that we must keep the parts of the Affordable Care Act that are working as we fix our broken health-care system, and this legislation to protect those with pre-existing conditions is a critical component of our health reform package,” Stefanik said.

VA benefits

Stefanik also recently co-sponsored H.R. 512, the Wingman Act, to streamline the benefits claims process between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the advocates who process claims on behalf of veterans and their families.

“Our district is home to more veterans than any congressional district in New York state, and I am proud to help pass this important, bipartisan legislation to ensure we get our heroes the benefits they deserve,” she said.

“This legislation will help my office serve our brave veterans by expediting the VA claims process and help them get their earned benefits in a timely manner.”

The Wingman Act will eliminate the burdensome step of having to use the VA as a “middle man” for certified congressional staff access to files that they already have permission to possess, her release said.

Under Wingman, constituent advocates would be able to directly access the status of a pending claim, medical records, compensation and pension records, rating decisions, statements of cases, supplementary statements of cases, notices of disagreement, and Form-9 files within a reasonable amount of time.

(Editor’s note: Four daily newspapers in the North Country — the Enterprise, Post-Star of Glens Falls, Watertown Daily Times and Press-Republican of Plattsburgh — are sharing content to better cover New York’s 21st Congressional District.)

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