Wyoming Senator To Introduce Association Health Plan Bill
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) early next week plans to introduce a bill (S 1955) that would allow association health plans to form under certain conditions, and he has scheduled a March 8 markup for the proposal, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 3/3). Like two other pending bills, Enzi's proposal would allow small businesses and trade associations to join together to offer group health coverage on a statewide or nationwide basis.
However, Enzi's bill differs from pending House (HR 525) and Senate (S 406) legislation in that it would require AHPs to cover any benefits mandated by at least 45 states.
To further address the concerns of opponents who say the plans would impair state-mandated consumer protections, Enzi's bill would leave supervision of the plans with state officials rather than the Department of Labor. In addition, although the bill "would permit business and trade associations to pool their members independently, they would not be allowed to establish self-insured plans, but would rather have to provide benefits through a fully-funded plan," CQ HealthBeat reports.
Enzi said, "Working with a diverse group of senators and business groups representing small business, we've bridged the gap between small business proponents of traditional AHPs and state-based interests worried about the prospects of dramatic regulatory changes in health insurance markets."
Mary Nell Lehnhard -- senior vice president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a group that has opposed other AHP proposals -- said, "I feel all of our concerns have been listened to. The process has been amazing." Lehnhard said BCBSA is neither supporting Enzi's bill nor lobbying against it.
CQ HealthBeat reports that while the House has passed earlier AHP proposals, the bill "faces stiff opposition in the Senate" (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 3/2).