In the news

NHPIRG Education Fund
New Hampshire Union Leader
Paula Tracy

Small business owners in New Hampshire say they want a pro-consumer health insurance exchange and a transparent process for reviewing premium increases, according to a poll conducted by the New Hampshire Public Interest Research Group.

NHPIRG held a news conference Monday to go over results of its survey, conducted last fall involving more than 200 small business owners across the state.

It found only 25 percent of small business owners currently offer coverage to their employees or themselves because of the high coverage costs in the state.

The federal Affordable Care Act, which this week is being appealed before the U.S. Supreme Court (see story, Page A4), calls for states to enact health insurance exchanges in each state by 2014.

New Hampshire is one of two states that refused almost $1 million to help set up such an exchange.

The federal government has said it would set up a generic exchange even if the state does not enact its own. The New Hampshire House is set to discuss health insurance exchange legislation on Wednesday.

The NHPIRG survey found only 3 percent of business owners surveyed do not want the state to develop an active purchaser exchange.

According to NHPIRG , key findings of the report include that the Legislature should form a strong health care exchange that pools the buying and negotiating power of individuals and small businesses; that it must be run by and for businesses and consumers; that the New Hampshire rate review policy should be transparent and that the consumer-run state exchange should have rate review authority that allows the group to reject unjustified rate hikes proposed by carriers.

Small business owners were polled in North Conway, Laconia, Concord, Keene, Dover, Portsmouth, Hooksett, Manchester and Nashua, said Addie Shanke, NHPIRG spokesman.

She noted that almost 80 percent said they believe the high cost of health care in New Hampshire hurts the overall economy.

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