The National Association of Realtors praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Small Business Health Fairness Act, H.R. 525, late Tuesday.

The legislation, which is one of NAR’s top priorities, will allow small businesses and self-employed workers to band together through a trade or professional association to negotiate lower health insurance costs for participants. Small-business health plans would operate under the same rules as federally regulated large corporate and union plans that provide group health insurance to all participants regardless of where they live.

The bill was introduced earlier this year by Reps. John Boehner, R-Ohio; Sam Johnson, R-Texas; Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.; and Albert Wynn, D-Md.; and by Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; Jim Talent, R-Mo.; Kit Bond, R-Mo.; and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. President Bush pledged his strong support for the legislation in his speech at the Realtors Midyear Legislative Meeting & Trade Expo in May, generating a standing ovation from thousands of Realtors. Realtors sent more than 140,000 letters to members of Congress this spring and summer urging them to pass the bill.

“More than a quarter of our members are small-business people or independent contractors who cannot find quality, affordable health care for their employees and families,” said NAR President Al Mansell of Salt Lake City. “The Small Business Health Fairness Act would allow trade associations like NAR to offer a uniform health care plan and use our collective bargaining power to lower the cost of health insurance for Realtors everywhere. We applaud the House of Representatives for passing the bill and look forward to working with the Senate.”

According to a recent survey of NAR members, 28 percent of NAR’s more than 1 million members are uninsured. Only 7 percent of real estate firms offer health care coverage for independent contractors, who are the largest segment of real estate agents.

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