Members of the Missouri House and the Missouri Senate have approved a single-state association health plan bill by unanimous votes.

Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, has praised lawmakers for passing the bill, H.B. 1827. If Blunt signs the bill, Missouri employers with 25 or fewer employees will be able to join small business health coverage purchasing pools.

The Missouri Department of Insurance already has given tentative approval to members of the Southwest Area Manufacturers Association, Springfield, Mo., who want to start an association plan that could provide coverage for as many as 2,000 member company employees, department officials say.

H.B. 1827 was introduced by Rep. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, Mo.