NU Online News Service, June 7, 10:22 a.m. – Florida insurance regulators have set up a 17-member committee to look for ways to make health coverage more affordable for small businesses.

Plans for self-employed individuals and employers with 50 or fewer employees cover 1.2 million Florida residents.

Small-group premiums rose by an average of 16% in 2000 and 24% in 2001, officials report.

This year, small-group premiums are increasing by an average of 30%, and premiums for many self-employed individuals are increasing more than 50%, officials estimate.

The members of the small-business health coverage committee will include insurance agents; small-business representatives; Randy Kammer, vice president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Jacksonville; Fla; and Joe Berding, chief executive of Vista Health Plan, Hollywood; Fla.