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Small Business Health Insurance is Priority for Realtors and Should Be for Congress

Small business health insurance

The National Association of Realtors told a congressional panel on March 14 that finding a solution to the health insurance access and affordability issue facing small businesses and the self-employed is a priority for Realtors.

Adam Cockey, an NAR spokesperson and senior vice president with Prudential Carruthers in Maryland, testified on behalf of the 1.3 million Realtor® members at a hearing before the House Small Business Committee. "As a practicing real estate professional for many, many years, I know how hard it is to find and keep health insurance when you have no employer provided coverage. I also know how hard it is to find affordable health coverage for your employees when you are the boss," said Cockey.

Most real estate agents are independent contractors and not employees of a realty office and most real estate firms are small businesses themselves. "Like your child's piano teacher or your hair stylist, real estate agents and other independent contractors are forced to look for insurance in the individual marketplace. This is a market segment where, for the most part, you basically take or leave whatever coverage is offered. There is no negotiating. There is no leverage," Cockey stated.

As the result of the industry structure and the current state of health insurance regulation and industry practices, today 28 percent of Realtors® do not have any heath insurance. In 1996, the percentage of uninsured real estate professionals was 13 percent. That number doubled in just over five years. "It is tragic that over 336,000 Realtors® are uninsured. Add to that family members and the figure jumps to more than 886,000 men, women and children," said Cockey. In addition, NAR has determined that many of the insured Realtors® today are insured by a spouse's insurance plan.

"Finding a solution to the problem of the uninsured must become a top priority for this nation. It is a problem that affects over 46 million Americans today. More then half of these individuals are self-employed or the owners and employees of small businesses," said Cockey. "We believe that without change, problems with the availability and affordability of health coverage will increasingly threaten what has been a major source of job growth and innovation in this country."

NAR told Congress that key considerations in trying to find a solution include attention to individual insurance markets, a defined set of core health-care benefits, acknowledgment of limited financial resources, tax treatment of health insurance premiums, and a role for nontraditional partner organizations.

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