A bi-partisan group in Congress is pushing a proposal to extend health care to millions more Missourians.

Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-St. Louis) says it’s important that the Small Business Health Options Program Act, known as SHOP, has bi-partisan support. He says that without support from both Democrats and Republicans, any effort to extend health care or make it more affordable would fail. Carnahan is joined by Republican Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau as the two Missourians pushing the proposal. The measure is co-sponsored by a Democrat and Republican.

The proposal provides incentives to small businesses to provide health care for employees, through allowing them to join large pools to spread risks and lower premiums. Administrative costs would also drop. The proposal includes accountability measures by making health care plans conform to state regulations.

The country has nearly six million small businesses. They employ just over 47 million workers. There are slightly more than 14 million self-employed individuals in the United States. SHOP is designed for both groups.

Not only have Democrats and Republicans come together on the proposal, so have business and labor groups. SHOP has drawn the support of such diverse groups as the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Association of Realtors and the Service Employees International Union.

Obstacles remain. Little time is left in the Congressional session and this is an election year, when it is traditionally difficult to push through controversial measures. 

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)