A majority of senators today voted to cap deductibility of health insurance company executive pay, but supporters failed to gather the 60 votes needed to win approval.
Senate Amendment 2905, offered by Sen Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., attracted support from 56 senators, including Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
The Democrats who voted against the amendment were Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; Thomas Carper, D-Del.; and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Independent-Conn., also voted against the amendment.
The amendment, proposed during the seventh day of floor debate on H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bill, would have limited the deductibility of health insurance company executive compensation to $400,000 per year.
Lincoln argued that her amendment would have helped encourage health insurance company executives to put patients’ interests first.
Since the early 1990s, she said, the percentage of health insurance companies’ revenue being spent on patient care has fallen to about 80%, from about 90%.
If the Lincoln amendment were law, the insurers would still “have the complete ability to pay what they choose,” but taxpayers would not be subsidizing excessive remuneration, Lincoln said.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked why the amendment would single out health insurance company executives.
“Why not limit compensation for other executives in other areas of health care?” Grassley asked. “What about the executives of hospitals? Why not executives of nursing homes? Why not executives of medical device manufacturers?”
The Lincoln amendment would not touch “drug company executives, because their industry cut a secret deal,” Grassley said.
Big pharmaceutical companies have agreed to support the bill in exchange for provisions that will help them, Grassley said.
Members of the Senate also voted 32-66 against Senate Amendment 2927, an amendment offered by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., that would have capped medical malpractice awards going to plaintiffs’ attorneys to one-third of the first $150,000 in compensation awarded.