Kerry Pulls Back Health Bill 'Pay to Play' Provision

September 25, 2009 ( - A move by U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) to withdraw an amendment to a sweeping health-care reform bill imposing a fee on employers not offering health plans has avoided a thorny Senate vote.

Business Insurance reported the Senate Finance Committee vote was scheduled for Thursday until Kerry took his “pay-or-play” amendment off the table.   

Under the provision, employers with at least 26 employees would have to pay an annual fee of $750 for each full-time employee and $375 for each part-time employee not covered by a health insurance plan.

It also would prorate the fee based on the number of months an employee remained uninsured, and it would index that scale according to the Consumer Price Index starting in 2013 and also scrap the bill’s “free rider” provision — a fee on employers whose workers receive subsidies from the federal government.

According to reports on The Hill Web site, some Democrats were unhappy with the bill proposed by Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), the committee’s chairman, because it did not include a strong enough employer mandate.

However, lawmakers from across the aisle have opposed any kind of mandate, saying it would impose hefty fees on small businesses already weakened by the economic downturn.