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Realtors, Other Small Businesses Face Health Care Crisis

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Small business employers and the self-employed, including real estate firms and agents, are facing a growing challenge in accessing and providing affordable health insurance, Pat Vredevoogd Combs, president of the National Association of Realtors(R), told a congressional panel on Wednesday.

"As we sit here, 28 percent of the nation's 1.3 million Realtors do not have any health insurance. This is nearly double the percentage of uninsured members in 1996. If we add family members to the total, the final estimate for the Realtor family is close to 886,000 individuals," stated Combs. "We are ready to work with you to fix an insurance delivery system that is not meeting the needs of working Americans," she pledged.

"Because real estate agents are independent contractors, they are forced into the individual insurance market where there is no negotiating or leverage. The only choice they have is to pay whatever price is offered or to go without insurance all together," said Combs.

Combs thanked Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and ranking member Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) for bringing together various organizations, associations and individuals to talk about the health insurance challenges facing the nation today. Chairman Kennedy and Sen. Enzi hosted the roundtable discussion to learn more about the factors that have resulted in nearly 46 million uninsured Americans.

Making health care insurance available and affordable for Realtors(R) and for all Americans employed by small businesses is a top priority of NAR. "We believe it is important to find a solution to the health insurance crisis that has plagued small businesses. We don't have all the answers on how to do it, but we do know it must be done," said Combs.

Currently, over half of the 46 million Americans who lack health insurance are self-employed or owners or employees of small businesses. The GAO estimated that 30% of the American workforce in 2000 was comprised of freelance, independent contractors and temporary employees. Some estimates put this number at nearly 41% of the U.S. workforce by 2010.

"Health care for working Americans, especially the self-employed or small business employees, is a growing problem, and one that is not going away anytime soon. Finding a solution to the problem of the uninsured needs to be a top priority for this nation," said Combs.

The National Association of Realtors(R), "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

For more information, visit http://www.realtor.org.

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