House Education and the Workforce Committee Passes Bill To Allow Multi-State Association Health Plans
The House Education and the Workforce Committee on Thursday voted 26-21 to pass legislation (HR 660) that would allow small businesses to join together to form association health plans across state lines without having to adhere to state-mandated coverage requirements for certain diseases, CQ Today Midday Update reports (CQ Today Midday Update, 6/12). The bill, backed by the Bush administration, would let small businesses purchase health insurance through trade associations such as the National Federation of Independent Business or the National Restaurant Association (CongressDaily, 6/12). The committee rejected on mostly party-line votes a series of Democratic amendments seeking to ensure that AHPs abide by state laws regulating coverage for specific illnesses. Republicans said that the mandates were "unnecessary" and that requiring the AHPs to adhere to individual state regulations would make it more difficult for the groups to operate efficiently (CQ Today Midday Update, 6/12). Instead, the AHPs would be regulated by the less stringent rules under the supervision of the Labor Department (Hamburger, Wall Street Journal, 5/28). Democrats said the bill would "weaken" coverage for diseases such autism, breast cancer, prostate cancer and mental illnesses (CQ Today Midday Update, 6/12). While the measure has already passed in the House three times, "the real test will come in the Senate," where the legislation has been "ensnared" in a dispute over a patients' bill of rights, the AP/Detroit News reports (Quaid, AP/Detroit News, 6/13). The Senate has never scheduled a floor vote on the matter (Wall Street Journal, 5/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.