Bush Reiterates Support for Health Plan Legislation
President Bush on Friday reiterated his support for legislation that would allow small businesses to form association health plans, CQ Today reports. In a speech before the National Newspaper Association, Bush said that he hopes the Senate will pass such legislation this year.
A bill (S 1955) under consideration in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee would allow small businesses to form AHPs under certain conditions.
Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who sponsored the legislation, plans to complete a markup of the bill on March 15.
The House last July passed a different bill (HR 525) that would allow small businesses to form AHPs.
Bush said, "I believe small businesses ought to be able to pool risk across jurisdictional boundaries so they can get the same benefits from larger pools that big companies get." He added that he remains hopeful about the prospects of the Senate bill.
After the speech, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), ranking member of the committee, said, "In the guise of helping small businesses afford health insurance for their workers, the Republican plan is a blank check for the insurance industry and a bad deal for patients, resulting in higher premiums and lower benefits" (Schuler, CQ Today, 3/10).
The Wall Street Journal on Monday examined the Senate AHP bill, which "supporters say ... would provide relief without creating an expensive government program" and would help decrease premiums for healthier people and make coverage more affordable. However, critics argue that the bill would "gut state protections for patients" and "would make coverage costlier for sicker people," according to the Journal.
Health insurers are not opposed to the bill but have concerns about some of the provisions, according to the Journal (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 3/13).