EMPLOYER MANDATE: Kennedy Expected To Introduce Bill
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) plans to propose legislation today "requiring companies with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance," the Boston Globe reports. The bill would require "employers with 50 or more workers ... to provide health insurance coverage and contribute to the cost of the program." Although "the bill does not mandate specific benefits," it would require employers to at least match the federal government's contribution to Blue Cross/Blue Shield workers' coverage, which amounts to 72% of the cost. The Globe reports that the bill is unlikely to pass this year "because [Kennedy] lacks political support, and because it is being introduced so late in the congressional session." However, the bill "will give Kennedy an opportunity to focus attention again on one of his top issues." The bill will have no co-sponsors; Kennedy intends to introduce it today at a news conference with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Kennedy said the measure "would provide health coverage for half of the nation's 40 million uninsured workers."
Standing His Ground
"We thought that Senator Kennedy got the message last time," said Victoria Caldeira, a Senate lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business. However, Kennedy's spokesperson, Jim Manley, noted that the senator will continue "to address ... the health care problem." Kennedy defended his plan as one that "would not cost taxpayers any additional money" because employers and employees would bear coverage expenses (Kranish, 4/22).