Group Submits Petitions in Support of Association Health Plan Bill
The National Federation of Independent Businesses on Wednesday submitted to the Senate 450,000 signed petitions in support of a bill (S 1955) that would allow small businesses to form association health plans under certain conditions, CQ Today reports (Schuler, CQ Today, 4/26).
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. Under the bill, health insurers also could market plans to businesses and individuals that do not meet current state benefits requirements (California Healthline, 4/24).
According to CQ Today, opposition to the legislation "has drawn together an unusual coalition of interest groups" -- such as most Senate Democrats, 39 state attorneys general, a number of state insurance commissioners and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a moderate, "signaled that the bill would be difficult to pass without some changes."
Enzi said that he has discussed possible revisions to the legislation with other senators and predicted that the final bill would have an adequate number of votes to end a potential filibuster by Senate Democrats (CQ Today, 4/26).
Senate Democratic leaders oppose the legislation, and the bill currently has only one Democratic co-sponsor -- Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) -- although other Democrats "might wind up supporting it," CongressDaily reports. Senate Republican leaders likely will hold a floor vote on the bill during the week of May 8 as part of "health week" (Heil, CongressDaily, 4/27).