Bill To OK Association Health Plans in the Works
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is working on new legislation that would permit small businesses to jointly negotiate health plan rates and also give them tax incentives for offering employees coverage, according to a Democratic aide to the committee, CongressDaily reports.
According to the aide, Baucus' proposal will be "bipartisan" and include a "new construct" for small business insurance pools. The proposal is in the early stages of development, according to CongressDaily.
According to the aide, Baucus' legislation will attract more Democratic support than a bill by Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), former chair and current ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (Johnson, CongressDaily, 3/6).
The Senate in May 2006 blocked the bill (American Health Line, 5/12). Enzi's bill had received criticism because it would have waived state coverage requirements.
According to CongressDaily, Enzi continues to lobby for the bill. Republican staff members and business sources say that in order to garner support from Enzi and businesses, Baucus' proposal must allow small businesses to establish insurance pools across state lines. Baucus also could "face an uphill battle with his own party if his bill is viewed as isolating high-risk groups and causing their premiums to rise," CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 3/6).