America’s Health Insurance Plans today held a joint press conference with the National Federation of Independent Business to highlight their common interests.

The NFIB, Nashville, Tenn., says policymakers interested in reforming the health finance system must think about the cost of coverage as well as access to coverage.

“It is imperative that insurance market reform – specifically in the individual and small group markets – leads to greater access to larger pools, increased portability and competitive choices,” NFIB President Dan Danner said today at the press conference.

In the past, the NFIB has supported efforts to create “association health plans,” or health plans that would be regulated mainly by a national regulator, or by insurance regulators in a single state.

AHIP, Washington, notes in a statement released today that it supports the creation of “essential benefits plans.”

“These plans would be subject to state regulation but would not be subject to varying and conflicting state benefit mandates that result in increased costs to small businesses (and that do not apply to the generally larger employers that enter into self-funded health care coverage arrangements),” AHIP says.

AHIP released survey results that show how much small group health rates vary from market to market.

In 2008, the national small group average premium was $346 per month for an individual and $913 for a family, AHIP says.

But AHIP researchers found state averages for small group coverage ranged from $198 per individual, and $521 per family, in Washington state, up to $504 per individual, and $1,329 per family, in Alaska.

In addition to supporting essentials benefits plans, AHIP says it supports changing the tax code, improving efforts to coordinate public health insurance programs with private programs, and coming up with new ways to help employers with 10 or fewer employees.