Medical Advocacy Groups, AARP Plan To Lobby Against Association Health Plans Bill
Several medical advocacy groups and AARP plan to make a "lobbying push" against a bill (S 1955) that would allow small businesses to form association health plans under certain conditions, CongressDaily reports (Heil, CongressDaily, 4/21).
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, 4/13).
In response to the bill, which likely will move to the Senate floor for consideration in May, the American Cancer Society plans to publish print advertisements that warn the legislation could reduce the ability of women to obtain coverage from health insurers for mammograms. Forty-nine states require health insurers to cover mammograms.
Dan Smith, vice president of government relations for ACS, said, "Not only would this legislation wipe out guaranteed access to cancer screenings, it would remove coverage guarantees for clinical trials, off-label drug use and smoking cessation services."
The American Diabetes Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics also have said the bill would eliminate state benefits requirements that affect patients with diabetes and children.
In addition, AARP has raised concerns that the bill could increase health insurance costs for members. David Sloane, director of advocacy for AARP, said, "We're actively and aggressively working with Senate offices to let them know of our concern."
According to CongressDaily, the bill "represents the GOP's best chance of passing major health legislation this year" (CongressDaily, 4/21).