Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee have introduced a new association health plan bill.

The AHP bill would give small employers the same ability that large, self-insured employers now have to avoid state benefits mandates, by buying health coverage through multistate associations.

In many states, chambers of commerce and other groups already operate single-state association plans.

“Small businesses and their workers are desperate for relief from the high costs of health insurance, and House Republicans have worked to deliver that relief to them,” says Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., the ranking minority member of the committee. “These working families deserve to have small business plans considered and voted on in the House. I’m hopeful that our colleagues across the aisle – 36 of whom voted for this legislation in the last Congress – will join us in guaranteeing that.”

McKeon is one of the co-sponsors of the bill, along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

At press time, the number of the bill was unavailable.

Opponents of AHP proposals, including many health insurers, say they would create an uneven playing field and give poorly supervised, poorly capitalized AHPs the ability to siphon the healthiest small groups away from traditional health carriers.

Backers of the new AHP bill were preparing at press time to present a House Rules motion that would guarantee time for debate on the AHP bill and a time for a vote on the bill on the House floor later this month.