Members of the Senate voted 51-47 Thursday to approve S. 1932, a 2006 budget bill that includes several measures of interest to the life insurance industry.[@@]

S. 1932, the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005, is supposed to cut $35 billion in spending over 5 years.

Some provisions of the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., would double premium rates for defined benefit pension plans covered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.; cut funding from an arrangement that is supposed to encourage private health insurers to offer Medicare Advantage managed care plans to residents of rural areas; and make the Long Term Care Partnership program available in all states.

The LTC Partnership program, which gives purchasers of private LTC insurance policies who use the benefits the ability to protect some assets before qualifying for Medicaid nursing home benefits, now is available only in California, Connecticut, Indiana and New York.

Senators spent some time discussing the PBGC premium increase during floor debate this week, but they spent most of their time discussing bill provisions that would cut funding for Medicaid and let oil companies drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.