A Senate committee panel voted 11-9 Wednesday to approve an association health plan bill.
“It’s time for the Senate to pass this bill,” Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., the sponsor of the bill, said after the vote. “No more excuses.”
Before the vote, Enzi said enacting S. 1955, the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act, would help small businesses to afford group coverage by banding together through associations. Bill advocates say the association plans would enjoy the same freedom from state benefits mandates that large, self-insured employers now enjoy.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., “said insurance companies have to keep an eye on the bottom line, and that the reason we have so many insurance mandates is that insurance companies otherwise would have complete control over what is and isn’t covered,” Enzi said. “In other words, health insurance is a seller’s market, and the sellers control the product and dictate the terms. Having been in business before, I understand what Senator Dodd was saying.”
But opponents of S. 1955 said enacting it would interfere with states’ ability to regulate the insurance industry.
The bill “effectively preempts the judgment and decisions of the people of my state,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the most senior Democrat on the HELP Committee.
The bill would sharply limit states’ ability to protect consumers, Kennedy said.