The association health plans bill, which has garnered support from industry associations, was introduced again in the U.S. House.

WASHINGTON - The Small Business Health Fairness Act, which would allow small businesses to band together to purchase health care, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Feb. 2.

The Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-Texas) is leading the effort to create what are often called "association health plans," which supporters say would lower company insurance costs. The bill was co-sponsored by Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) and others. Past efforts to get similar bills through Congress have not succeeded.

Supporters, such as the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association, say passage of the bill would increase small businesses' bargaining power with health care providers.

"This is definitely good news that the legislation was introduced so early in the 109th Congress," said Lake Coulson, vice president of government relations for the PHCC. "Affordable insurance is a very big issue for our members, so we'll be lobbying for AHPs extensively as the legislation moves to a vote."