Lawmakers Debate Health Insurance Proposal
The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday held a hearing to discuss legislative solutions to help small businesses provide health coverage, including a bill (S 1955) that would allow them to form association health plans under certain conditions, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) and approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, would allow small businesses to join AHPs to buy less regulated coverage, according to CQ HealthBeat.
Joseph Rossmann of the Associated Builders and Contractors said the bill "is the most viable proposal currently before the U.S. Senate," adding that it would be led by the private sector and would also reduce premium costs by 12% for members of AHPs.
However, New America Foundation health policy analyst Len Nichols said the bill "is manifestly about helping some at the expense of others" and would lessen costs for healthier small business employees while increasing them for sicker employees.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) spoke in favor of her bill (S 2510), which would create a nationwide purchasing pool to form a small employers health benefits program similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. Supporters said Lincoln's bill would allow the costs of more sickly workers to be offset by the contributions of healthier workers, thereby making coverage more affordable for those with chronic illnesses, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) did not make any recommendations but said he will hold more hearings on the issue. The committee is expected to vote on S 1955 early May (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 4/6).