Majority of state attorneys generals oppose S.1955
Attorneys general from 38 states and the District of Columbia have stated their opposition to S.1955 — the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act of 2006 — stating the “bill contains provisions that will erode state oversight of health insurance plans and eliminate consumer protections in the areas of mandated benefits and internal grievance procedures.”
The attorneys general, members of the National Association of Attorneys General, stated that if this bill is passed, it will “supersede any and all state laws” regulating small business health plans and cited a similar bill that had been enacted in the mid-1970s, which exempted similar plans from state law.
These plans, called Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements, caused about 298,000 consumers to be left with more than $123 million in unpaid claims, the lawyers said. Congress repealed the exemption that preempted state regulation when it became clear it was the only way to limit fraud and abuse.
Other reasons cited by the group include:
• The bill preempts state laws regulation all health insurance plans, not just small business health plans, in a number of areas, including mandated benefits, internal appeals, form and rate filing, market conduct review, and prompt payment of claims.
• The bill allows insurers of individual, small group, and large group policies to sell health plans that do not contain benefits required by state law, including mammograms, routine gynecological care, and child wellness services, and diabetes equipment. Under the bill, the companies could offer “bare-bones” policies to consumers.
• The bill gives the federal government the ability to set procedures for internal appeals in situations of claims denial. Currently a number of states provide this to consumers.
The attorneys general join a number of organizations in opposing the bill. Oppositionists include the American Chiropractic Association, the Chiropractic Coalition, Congress of Chiropractic States Associations, and the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research, along with a number of states associations.
S.1955 has its proponents, however, who say that it make it easier and cheaper for small businesses to provide healthcare to their employees. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is in favor of the bill, stating that it provides consistency among states, provides a level playing field, and reduces costs.
The 39 attorneys general opposing S.1955 are from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Full text of the bill is available online through the Library of Congress access to legislative action, Thomas. Go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and type in S. 1955 in the search area. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill in early May.
Sources: National Association of Attorneys General, www.naag.org; Chiropractic Economics,“DC associations oppose controversial health bill,” “Senate to vote on S-1955 in May.”