NU Online News Service, June 20, 2003, 4:24 p.m. EDT – The U.S. House of Representatives voted 262-162 Thursday to pass H.R. 660, the House version of the association health plan bill.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Ernie Fletcher, R-Lexington, Ky., would let small businesses buy health coverage through national associations that would be free from state-imposed coverage requirements.

Advocates, including the National Federation of Independent Business, Nashville, Tenn., say the bill would simply offer small employers the same freedom from state mandates that union health plans and self-funded employer-sponsored plans now enjoy.

Opponents, including insurance trade groups and the American Academy of Actuaries, Washington, argue that the association plans would “cherry pick” the best risks and leave older, sicker groups stranded in the traditional, state-regulated small group market.

Links to the text of the bill and information about the bill are posted at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:h.r.00660: