In an effort to make health insurance a more realistic proposition for small businesses, Arizona has launched a new program that will help entrepreneurs foot the bill.

The Department of Revenue program, which began on Sept. 21, provides coupons worth as much as 50% of insurance premiums to uninsured small businesses with two to 25 employees. Companies must apply for the coupons, which come with a cap of $1,000 per individual.

The coupons are only available to companies that have not offered insurance for at least six months.

Michelle Bolton, the Arizona state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said that the legislation is meant to encourage small-business owners without coverage to go out and get it.  The coupons issued by the Department of Revenue are good for up to three years, at which point Bolton said she hopes business owners will be better able to afford coverage on their own. 

"This latest round of health-care reforms is just the start of improving the affordability issues for both small businesses and individuals," Bolton said.

A related piece of health-care legislation also went into effect on Sept. 21. It provides exceptions to state mandates for private-sector insurance companies, in an effort to provide more affordable -- although less thorough -- insurance packages to small businesses that would otherwise have none.