House Education and Workforce Committee Approves Bill on Association Health Plans
The House Education and Workforce Committee on Wednesday voted 25-22 to approve a bill (HR 525) that would allow small businesses to form association health plans across state lines, CQ HealthBeat reports. The legislation would exempt AHPs from state insurance laws that mandate coverage for certain treatments and procedures (CQ HealthBeat, 3/16).
According to supporters, AHPs would make health insurance more affordable for small businesses and could expand access to health care for employees. However, according to opponents, many health insurers might drop coverage for a number of services -- such as tests and treatment for breast cancer, autism and mental illnesses -- because the bill would exempt AHPs from state insurance laws that mandate coverage for such services (California Healthline, 5/14/04).
Committee Democrats on Wednesday proposed several failed amendments that would have removed the exemption for AHPs from state insurance laws that mandate coverage for a number of treatments and procedures -- such as supplies for tests and treatments for diabetes, breast cancer tests, autism treatments, treatments for mental illnesses, maternity care, contraceptives and childhood physicals and immunizations (CQ HealthBeat, 3/16). Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), a supporter of the bill, also proposed a failed amendment that would have removed language he said could allow small businesses and health insurers to charge higher premiums for older employees and those who might have high medical bills.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) has introduced companion legislation (S 406) in the Senate, but prospects for the bill do "not appear to be much brighter than they were" last year, when similar legislation failed, CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 3/16).