Amendment to Association Health Plan Bill Considered
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, on Tuesday said that she might introduce an amendment to an association health plan bill (S 1955) that would require such plans to include benefits currently mandated by two-thirds of states, CQ HealthBeat reports (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 5/2).
The legislation, sponsored by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), would allow small businesses and trade associations to partner to offer group health plans on a statewide or nationwide basis. The bill would allow supervision of the plans to remain with state officials, rather than with the Department of Labor.
In addition, although the legislation would allow small businesses and trade associations to pool members independently, they would have to establish fully funded plans, rather than self-insured plans (California Healthline, 5/1).
Under the bill, health insurers could market plans to businesses and individuals that do not meet current state benefits requirements, provided that they market at least one plan equivalent to a plan offered to state employees of one of the five most populous states -- California, Texas, New York, Florida or Illinois.
Snowe said, "There's a real concern that the high-cost plan where all the benefits would be located ... would be out of reach for most Americans."
According to CQ HealthBeat, the Snowe amendment "could win the support of some Democrats who are concerned that some medical conditions could go untreated under Enzi's bill" (CQ HealthBeat, 5/2).
According to CongressDaily, Enzi is "struggling to satisfy both on-the-fence Democrats and Republicans who are taking a hard line against expanding the bill," and the "lack of support for the bill is complicating its prospects for getting to the floor for a vote." Four Democrats likely will vote in favor of the bill, and one or two Republicans might vote against the legislation, CongressDaily reports.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday said, "I would hope the majority leader would bring a bill to the Senate floor that we would work on, not something that is doomed to failure."
Senate Budget Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said, "It's a very balanced bill" (CongressDaily, 5/3).