LEGAL ISSUES

Opposition to Health-Care Bill Gains Momentum

New Hampshire’s governor became the latest state official to speak out against association health plans.
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New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch on Tuesday joined the growing opposition to a U.S. Senate bill that would allow small businesses to band together across state lines to buy health insurance.

Already, 41 state attorneys general have spoken out against the proposed legislation, claiming that such association health plans would ignore individual state health-insurance requirements.

"This bill is not a solution to our nation's health-care problems," Lynch said at a press conference. "This federal legislation will only make it more difficult for New Hampshire's small businesses to continue to offer health insurance to their workers."

S.B. 1955, sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), is aimed at allowing businesses that are affiliated with trade or professional associations to buy health insurance collectively, regardless of location.

The National Federation of Independent Business said that a recent analysis of the bill's impact "showed that the plans would reduce health-insurance costs by 12% for small businesses, while significantly reducing the ranks of the nation's uninsured."

However, in an April 27 letter to the Senate, the attorneys general wrote that eliminating strong state protections in favor of weak federal oversight would ultimately hurt consumers. Of particular concern, they said, was the potential elimination of coverage for cancer screenings and diabetes equipment, which is mandated by some states.

The bill is scheduled to come to the Senate floor the week of May 8.

Last updated: May 2, 2006




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