Insurance Bill: Bane or Benefit to Employers, Employees?

The "Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act of 2006" (S1955) is drawing fire as being neither modern nor affordable.

Sponsored by Michael Enzi(R-WYO), supporters claim the bill will help more businesses and employees afford health care benefits. The bill, they say, will allow small business associations to pool members across state lines, enabling them to use combined purchasing power for affordable insurance.


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Forty-six million Americans, a gain of 6 million since 2000, have no health insurance, and many are employed by small businesses. It is estimated that 4000 are added daily to the rolls of the uninsured.

Detractors of the bill cite the insurance companies use of gender, age and residence as a form of discrimination, in opposition to the hard-fought patient protection laws, passed by 41, states that would be bypassed to exempt small businesses' health plans from existing state laws.

Among groups in opposition of S1955 are the American Cancer Society, National Diabetes Association, state insurance commissioners in 10 states and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), with 35 million members. Some of their concerns are the elimination of diabetic supplies, mental health care, cancer screenings, including breast, colon, cervical and prostate, which are effective in early detection and treatment.

The Federation for Taxpayers Consumer Rights (FTCR) states, "The attack on states' rights puts millions of patients, many of whom are business owners and self employed, at risk."

According to the AARP, this pre-empting of state pricing regulations can cause premium variations of "over 2000 percent" in some small business plans. David Sloane, AARP's director of government relations, says, "enactment of this bill could actually result in a doubling of insurance cost for companies that employ older or sicker workers."

A version of the bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives.

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