Committee backs stop-loss, AHP and wellness bills

Beyond the Affordable Care Act

Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., argued that the asociation health bill could hurt small employers with older workers. (Photo: House Education) Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., argued that the asociation health bill could hurt small employers with older workers. (Photo: House Education)

Three narrow health benefits bills sailed through the House Education and the Workforce Committee today.

The 39 members at a bill markup, or bill revision and voting session, approved H.R. 1304, the new version of the Self-Insurance Protection Act bill, by a voice vote.

Related: Self-insurance group asks Congress for stop-loss help

H.R. 1304 would exclude stop-loss insurance from the federal definition of "health insurance," in an effort to keep states from interfering with stop-loss issuers' efforts to sell stop-loss to small self-funded employer health plans.

Related: Johnson brings back association health plan bill

The members voted 22-17, strictly along party lines, for H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act bill, and H.R. 1313, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act bill.

H.R. 1101 is the new version of the association health plan bill. The bill would let employers purchase health coverage through multi-state associations. The regulators in an AHP's home state would be in charge of regulating the AHP.

H.R. 1313 is the new version of a wellness bill. One provision would let employers collect information about the health of employees' relatives. Another would classify a wellness or condition management program that provides more favorable treatment for individuals with health problems as complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

All Republicans who participated in the markup voted for H.R. 1101 and H.R. 1313, and all Democrats voted against it.

Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, has reintroduced H.R. 1101, the AHP bill. He has introduced several earlier versions of the bill.

The version the committee actually approved was a substitute version offered by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich.

An analysis of the differences between the Walberg version and the earlier versions was not immediately available.

Democrats used most of their speaking time at the markup to attack Republican efforts to de-fund the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Robert Scott, R-Va., the highest-ranking Republican on the committee, said he wished the House Education and Workforce Committee had waited to act on the three health bills until after efforts to advance the new Republican Affordable Care Act de-funding bill draft, the American Health Care Act draft, were further advanced.

"We appear to be shooting at a moving target," Scott said at the markup, which was streamed live on the web.

Scott was particularly critical of H.R. 1101, arguing that it would tend to segment the small-group market in a way that could lead to higher prices for some employers.

"This bill would make it easier for associations to cherry pick smaller employers with younger, healthier workforces," Scott said.

In the past, AHP bills have divided the business community. Consumer groups, insurers, many state insurance regulators, and some brokers have opposed the bills. Many other business groups and some brokers and plan administrators have supported the bills.

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