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RISMEDIA, April 27, 2007-The National Association of Realtors(R) in written testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, said that Realtors – as self-employed independent contractors or as broker-owners of small real estate firms — know very well how hard it is to find and keep health insurance when you have no employer-provided coverage or to find affordable coverage for your employees if you are the boss.

Small firms and the self-employed are widely recognized as the largest source of new American jobs and much of the technological innovation from which America's economy has benefited. Without change, problems about availability and affordability of health coverage will increasingly threaten what has been a major source of job growth and innovation in this nation, according to NAR.

NAR President Pat Vredevoogd Combs said, "28 percent of the nation's 1.3 million Realtors have no health insurance and by far the predominant reason given is cost. The percentage of uninsured Realtors is almost double that of America as a whole. This is a serious problem for us."

NAR encouraged Congress to examine whether the nation's system of state-based coverage for individuals has outlived its ability to effectively pool risk on the scale that is necessary to offer an affordable product to the self-employed and small business community.

"NAR believes there are ways of expanding the pool without creating unintended consequences and ways to bring more and better competition to the state markets. We believe the lack of uniformity and the complexity in state mandates have increased costs and contributed to the withdrawal of insurers from states where they once operated. Non-employer groups need to be allowed to develop affordable and uniform national insurance programs tailored to the specific needs of their small business and self-employed members," said Combs.

NAR, while having no broad policy on recent proposals, does comment that favorable tax treatment of health insurance premiums is important but should not be the sole solution to the problems facing the uninsured. NAR also suggested removing barriers to allow community and nonprofit organizations, which have traditionally not been involved in facilitating access to health care, to facilitate access to health care for the nation's
small businesses and the self-employed. Among such organizations are professional or trade associations.

"Trade associations have a long tradition of serving their members personal and professional needs. Member service is why these organizations exist and they are uniquely positioned to meet their members' needs. When it comes to designing a member health insurance program on a national or regional basis, however, the complexity of the state-based system of insurance regulation presents an obstacle to trade organizations," NAR said. NAR pledged to continue to work with Congress to "get this done now".

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