House Subcommittee Approves Bill To Allow Trade Groups To Form Association Health Plans
The House Education and Workforce Employer and Employee Subcommittee yesterday voted 13-8 to approve a bill (HR 660) that would allow businesses in the same trade groups to form association health plans exempt from state laws that require health plans to provide certain benefits, according to CongressDaily Markup Reports. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who sponsored the bill, said that exemption from state laws would help control costs. Subcommittee Chair Sam Johnson (R-Texas) added that the legislation would increase "small businesses' bargaining power with health providers" and predicted that the formation of AHPs would "increase the number of insured Americans by up to eight million individuals." However, most Democrats on the subcommittee said that the bill would "foster the creation of a group of cheap, inadequate plans immune to state requirements for benefits packages" and would prompt employers to switch to AHPs to reduce costs, according to CongressDaily Markup Reports. Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), ranking member of the subcommittee, said that according to the Congressional Budget Office, the number of uninsured individuals who would obtain health coverage under AHPs "might be only 330,000."
The subcommittee yesterday rejected eight amendments introduced by Democrats. Five of the amendments would have required AHPs to adhere to some state laws that require health plans to provide certain benefits, such as laws that require tests for some forms of cancer, diabetes treatment, prenatal care, children's health care and substance abuse treatment. Other amendments would have required AHPs to adhere to state laws that require prompt payments of claims and external review of coverage and would have mandated that contribution rates for businesses that participate in AHPs not differ based on the race, color, religion, gender, nationality or age of their workforces. An additional amendment would have required employers to cover the cost of benefits for employees "if there is a failure to provide timely benefits because of a lack of funding," according to CongressDaily Markup Reports (Rich, CongressDaily Markup Reports, 4/8).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.