Contractor discusses association health Plans with President Bush.

WASHINGTON - Associated Builders and Contractors member Kenneth Holmes had the opportunity recently to discuss the need for small-business owners to band together for cheaper health care costs with President George W. Bush.

Holmes, vice president and general manager of North Branch Construction Inc., spoke to Bush in Derry, N.H.

Holmes recounted his firm's spiraling health care premiums and explained how "association" health plan legislation in the U.S. Senate, which would allow small companies to join together to press for better rates, would help control health care costs.

"We're an active member of Associated Builders and Contractors, our national association, that has been... supporting your effort for association health plans for the last couple of years," Holmes told the president.

When asked whether his health care costs had increased, Holmes told Bush that his premiums have risen for "several years," noting that North Branch Construction currently pays $240,000 a year to provide health insurance for its 55 employees and their families.

Bush has long supported association health plans.

"Association health plans mean the small businesses can pool risk, can join together across jurisdictional boundaries, across state lines, so that there's a larger pool of people to insure," said Bush. "The more people you insure, the more risk you spread, the cheaper the policies, the less expensive your policies are."