April 17, 2008
Legislation Seeks to Expand Group Health Insurance to More Small
One of the challenges
facing small businesses today is the affordability of health insurance. Most
small businesses cannot afford group coverage because the size of their group
is not cost effective. Therefore, they are required to buy individual policies
which become extremely expensive as the individuals age or develop any chronic
medical condition or risk factors. New legislation proposes to provide more
options to small business by allowing them to pool together under an
association or other group buying entity. Unfortunately, the primary opponent
to expanded coverage options for small businesses has been state insurance
regulators who do not want nationwide groups that eliminate their state by
state regulation of health insurance. To accommodate their powerful lobby, the
bill provides each state with the opportunity to opt out of nationwide pools.
Background: On April 2nd, 2008,
Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Olympia Snowe (R-ME),
and Norm Coleman (R-MN) introduced the "Small Business Health Options Program"
(SHOP) bill. The bill was the result of negotiations with groups on opposite
sides of the small business health care debate as a compromise bill. Its aim is
to (1) decrease the number of uninsured by creating small business health care
pools, (2) create incentives for small businesses to offer health insurance for
employees, and (3) provide the self-employed with insurance
groups: The bill designates entities called "navigators" which would
coordinate with the government Administrator to advertise the national and
state insurance pools as well as assist businesses in enrolling in the
insurance pool. To be eligible as a navigator, an entity must prove that it has
or can establish a "relationship" with eligible business. Listed as potential
navigators are trade, industry, and professional associations. AO will continue
to follow this bill.
Incentives for Small
- Small businesses can
pool together in statewide or national health insurance pools to allow them to
decrease their health insurance costs.
- States can opt-out of
participating in nationwide pools and allows individual state insurance
commissioners to continue regulating state plans.
- SHOP would not
dictate insurance prices and would accept all qualified plans that meet state
- Beginning in 2011,
insurance ratings based on health status would be prohibited in SHOP and state
markets, which would prevent sudden price increases due to a sick
- Small businesses with
ten or fewer employees that cover 60% of employees' health care premiums would
receive a $1,000 per employee tax credit. The credit would increase for any
coverage over 60%, and the credit is phased down as the size of the business
- Family coverage would
allow a business to receive a $2,000 tax credit.
- SHOP would create a
website of plans that would allow participating businesses to chose an
Incentives for the
This story is based on
information article from the American Society of Association Executives and
- Similar to small
businesses, the self employed would be permitted to participate in SHOP pools
and receive a tax credit of $1,800 for purchasing their own insurance. Family
coverage would receive a $3,600 tax credit.
Check out AO's
Health Insurance Program at
||New Forest Service Flat Fee Policy Expected This
The new flat fee policy
for the Alaska Region may be a preview into the future fee policy that the
Forest Service adopts for the lower 48. The Alaska Region policy is due out
this week as a new directive published in the Federal Register. The flat fee
policy was originally released last year but revised and will be out for
comment again once published in the Federal Register. The proposal sets a flat
fee for each user day and the fee varies from activity to activity. Fees are
expected to be around $5 per day for most recreational activities and up to $10
per day for some specialized recreation. Fees for hunting will be levied by the
hunt, not by the day, and are expected to be around $200 for elk and $100 for
deer and higher for bear. The new fee policy was required by a Court ruling
that required the agency to charge permittees the same fee for the same or
similar activities. In the case Tongass Conservancy v Glickman, a tour operator
challenged the agency's fee policy after an audit levied significant fees on
his tours based on the entire price of the trip instead of the small amount of
time spent in the National Forests. The Forest Service has the option to
implement flat fees in National Forests but for most permittees the agency uses
a 3% of gross basis with discounts for off-Forest activities.
||20th Anniversary Celebration December 3 - 5
Marketing and Management Conference to Include Founder's Reunion
||It's hard to believe that 20 years have passed since the first
Confluence in New Orleans in 1989. This year we'll celebrate by adding value to
your business and your customer's experience with the most powerful programming
ever. A Founder's Reunion Celebration will invite some of the original owners
and pioneers of the industry to attend the grand celebration event in Knoxville
on Thursday, December 4th. The event will include a multi-media presentation
documenting and giving tribute to the early days of our industry. See old
friends and make new ones in the industry at this once in a life time event.
Registration information will be available in June.
||Six Students and Teacher Die Canyoning in
New Zealand on School
||Six students and one teacher died Tuesday when they were caught in a
swollen river at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre based in
Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. The students, aged 16 to 17, were
canyoning, an adventure activity in which participants in lifejackets, wet
suits and harnesses, float and scramble down waterways through narrow canyons.
The participants were caught in a surprise flood in a narrow canyon with little
chance of escape. The party got into difficulty in the Mangatepopo Gorge. The
victims were students at Elim Christian College in east Auckland. Thousands of
students have taken part in the adventure over the years with no previous
||Nahanni National Park Reserve in Canada Issues New Rules for
Require the Use of Licensed Outfitters
||In response to growing concerns about the safety practices on some
school outings, Nahanni National Park in Canada has issued a new Custodial
Management Directive that is intended to address the standard of care for
Custodial Groups visiting the park.
Effective May 01, 2008 Custodial
Groups must obtain a Custodial Permit. The Park has decided that school outings
must be offered through existing outfitters who are familiar with the rugged
environment of the Nahanni River. Custodial Permits will only be issued to
outfitting companies licensed by Nahanni National Park Reserve. To obtain a
Custodial Permit, outfitters will need to submit a Custodial Permit Application
to Nahanni National Park Reserve. There is no fee for the permit, and Custodial
groups will not take away from the outfitters regular commercial allotments.
These groups will fall under the new (still being developed) Special Group
Category that NNPR will manage under available private departure dates.
This directive is dramatically different from the proposed Forest
Service directive on institutional use which proposed to offer school and
institutional groups permits with "lowered operating requirements" with little
or no regard for their qualifications.
To view the Nahanni National
Park Custodial Permit Directive go to Final Rules and Regulations Section under
Government Affairs tab at
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