Senate Committee Postpones Vote on Health Plan Bill
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday postponed until March 15 further consideration of a bill (S 1955) that would allow small businesses to form association health plans under certain conditions, CongressDaily reports. The committee also voted against four amendments proposed by Democrats (Povich, CongressDaily, 3/9).
The bill, sponsored by Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), would allow small businesses and trade associations to join together to offer group health coverage on a statewide or nationwide basis. The bill would leave supervision of the plans with state officials rather than the Department of Labor.
In addition, while the bill would permit business and trade associations to pool their members independently, they would not be allowed to establish self-insured plans, but rather would have to provide benefits through a fully-funded plan (California Healthline, 3/3).
Insurers that offered the plans would be required to offer one plan with the benefits offered to state employees in one of the of the five most heavily-populated states -- California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas, according to CQ Today. The amendments that were defeated by the Senate HELP committee would have created a national insurance pool for small businesses modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and preserved some coverage mandated by state laws, including cancer screening, diabetes treatment and supplies and coverage requirements for newborns, adopted children and disabled children.
Other defeated amendments would have required insurers to provide the same level of coverage for mental health treatment as for other medical treatments and removed a provision in the bill that would allow insurers to sue states, CQ Today reports (Schuler, CQ Today, 3/8).