May 11, 2006 – A bill to deregulate group healthcare plans has faced massive opposition from consumer and patientsâ€™ rights groups and now faces potentially insurmountable hurdles in the Senate.
- U.S. Senate May Gut State Healthcare Rights Acts (Mar 10, 2006)
As The NewStandard reported in March, Senator Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming) is pushing a bill that would allow small businesses and trade associations to pool their buying power across state lines to purchase group health-insurance coverage for their employees and members. Enzi reasons that associations will be able to gain better leverage over insurers and negotiate lower prices.
The legislation, however, would also allow insurers selling such plans to skirt state laws that mandate what healthcare insurance must cover. For instance requirements by some states that insurance pay for mental-health care, contraception, diabetes treatments and cancer screenings could be usurped by yet-to-be-determined national standards set by the US Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which has been railing against the bill since its inception, has called Enziâ€™s proposal the "junk insurance bill" because it would loosen consumer-protection safeguards and allow insurers to sell plans that cover fewer services. It would also help companies avoid lawsuits filed by patients over false coverage promises and tie the hands of state regulators seeking to investigate companies for harmful practices.
Facing a threatened filibuster from Democrats, Enzi offered to tweak his legislation yesterday. But FTCR pointed out that proposed the changes were cosmetic and did not address the fundamental concerns of advocacy groups.