Association Health Plan Legislation Update
While the Senate has not acted on the Association Health Plan legislation (Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2003, S. 545) this fall, significant discussions regarding the bill have been occurring in recent weeks. The Senate Republican Uninsured Task Force, which consists of 10 Republican Senators, held several meetings in November to begin the process of developing "innovative and workable policy options to reduce the number of uninsured and provide more affordable health care coverage options." One of these meetings focused exclusively on the merits of the AHP legislation. Joe Rossmann of the Associated Builders and Contractors provided a detailed briefing to the Task Force on why the AHP legislation is desperately needed to expand affordable health benefits for workers employed in small businesses. Also participating in the meeting was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Paul Zurawski, who briefed the Senators on President Bush's strong support for the AHP legislation. The Task Force also received presentations from opponents of the AHP legislation - Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
The deliberations of the Senate Republican Uninsured Task Force, which are expected to continue in December and January, will greatly impact the outlook for the AHP legislation in the Senate in 2004. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has indicated that the Senate will make an effort to pass legislation aimed at addressing the uninsured problem some time next year. This will provide an opportunity to gain consideration of the AHP legislation in another forum if the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee fail to take up the bill as a stand-alone measure.
About the Author
Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.