Sen. Michael Enzi's (R-WY) attempt to push for a quick vote on The Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act, S. 1955, was blocked Thursday, May 11, when the Senate voted 55 - 43 against cloture. According to the Los Angeles Times, Enzi said he would work with Senate Democrats to draft compromise legislation, which he would then reintroduce later in the year.
"Yesterday's vote helped move the legislative process along, and our objective has not changed -- to have the Senate pass legislation that will provide small business owners with access to affordable healthcare," ABA COO Oren Teicher said. "This has been our only interest from the outset.
"The really encouraging news is, this past week showed there is support for Small Business Health Plans on both sides of the political aisle. We've made the first few steps in the right direction, and now we need to encourage our senators to negotiate in a bipartisan fashion to create a bill that everyone can agree on. Large corporations already have the ability to purchase health insurance at lower costs -- small businesses should, too."
With S. 1955 tabled for now, and possibly for good, two similar bills remain in the Senate. Teicher stressed that both are viable alternatives to Enzi's legislation that booksellers can support:
- The Small Employers Health Benefits Program Act of 2006 (S. 2510), sponsored by Sen. Rich Durbin (D-IL). According to Durbin's website, "SEHBP is based on the successful Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which has provided extensive benefit choices at affordable prices to members of Congress and federal employees for decades.... By pooling small businesses across America into one risk and purchasing pool like FEHBP, the new SEHBP program will allow employers to reap the benefits of group purchasing power and streamlined administrative costs, as well as access to more plan choices. Health plans will bid to offer benefit packages to SEHBP enrollees."
- The Small Business Health Fairness Act, (S. 406), sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). According to Snowe, S. 406 "would allow small businesses to pool together, through national Association Health Plans, also known as Small Business Health Plans, SBHPs, to offer uniform health insurance products to their employees. Small businesses would receive the same benefits currently enjoyed by larger employers and union plans under Federal law."
While SBHP legislation has passed the U.S. House of Representatives numerous times, it has never come up for a vote in the Senate. --David Grogan