Enzi Introduces Health Care Bill to Help Small Businesses

November 4, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - US Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) has introduced a bill intended to help small businesses provide affordable heath insurance to employees.

Enzi’s bill, S. 1955, would allow business and trade associations to band their members together and offer group health coverage on a national or statewide basis, according to a press release on Enzi’s Web site.

“We are nearing almost five years of double-digit growth in health insurance premiums – increases that have repeatedly exceeded more than five times the rate of inflation,” said Enzi, a former small business owner. “This inflationary spiral is lowering the quality of life for countless families and hurting our economy. But those hardest hit are America’s small businesses and their hard working employees and families. Never before has there been a more urgent need to encourage market reforms like those proposed in this bill.”

The bill:

  • Will resemble the fully insured-component of the association health plan (AHP) bill S. 406, “The Small Business Fairness Act;”  
  • Will permit business and trade associations to pool their members independently but will not allow them to establish self-insured plans;
  • Will require Small Business Health Plans (SBHPs) to include any benefits already required by at least 45 states as part of their plans, but also will allow those SBHPs to opt out of other mandated benefits that are not required by at least 45 states.

In addition, according to the announcement, the bill sets up a process to promote greater uniformity in the current varying state health insurance regulations.   The bill sets up a harmonization commission under the Department of Health and Human Services to develop uniform standards for insurance regulations, such as rating and underwriting, consumer protections, market conduct and plan oversight standards.

The legislation also points out from what state mandates SBHPs are exempt.   A summary of the bill said if a benefit mandate is in place in at least 45 states, an SBHP must follow it, but it may opt out of other mandated benefits.

A summary of the bill can be read  here .