Mila Kofman wants the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to sink any new association health plan measures that might surface in Congress.
Senate Democrats recently blocked passage of the best-known small business AHP bill, S. 1955, but that bill or another AHP bill could emerge, according to Kofman, a researcher at George Washington University who serves as an NAIC-funded consumer representative.
The NAIC as a body needs to oppose any such measures more forcefully than it opposed S. 1955, Kofman says.
Kofman says she will make that argument at the NAIC’s upcoming summer meeting in Washington.
Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and other sponsors of S. 1955 tried to appeal to regulators by requiring that small business AHPs get their coverage from an insurance company that would be regulated by its home-state insurance department.
Kofman says S. 1955 would have done nothing to deal with the factors driving up health care system costs. Instead, the bill would have weakened consumer rights by pre-empting state ratings laws and mandated benefit laws, Kofman says.
Kofman is praising a group of about 20 state insurance commissioners who asked their senators to oppose S. 1955. But Kofman says the NAIC should have sent a more forceful message about the bill.
“We got lucky but, next time, we may not be so lucky,” Kofman says. “You have to say that you will strongly oppose bills in which consumers lose rights and the market is deregulated.”
The National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Troy, N.Y., and the National Association of Attorneys General, Washington, did more to oppose S. 1955 than the NAIC did, Kofman says.
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman, North Dakota insurance commissioner, says he disagrees with Kofman assessment of the NAIC’s work on S. 1955.
“I’m very proud of the way that the NAIC collectively worked in Congress,” Poolman says. “That bill came a long way in establishing consumer protections and trying to preserve state regulation.”
The NAIC worked to add important solvency provisions to S. 1955 and to keep the bill from preempting state law, Poolman says.
If the bill is introduced again and negotiations can start where the recently defeated bill left off, that would be a good place to begin, according to Poolman.
“We are far more engaged on health care issues than we have ever been,” Poolman says. “And, that’s a good thing.”