HEALTH ACCESS ALERT
Wednesday, March 15th, 2006
*Ides of March Edition*

ENZI BILL PASSES SENATE COMMITTEE; WOULD GUT CA PROTECTIONS

  • State health plan regulations for consumers, providers, employers under attack
  • Federal legislation, S. 1955 (Enzi) would have particular impact on California
  • Action needed with U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein

California ’s past, current and future efforts to oversee health insurance plans could be rendered moot if new federal legislation, which President George W. Bush supports, were to pass.

ENZI BILL PASSES KEY COMMITTEE: S.1955 by Senator Michael Enzi would eliminate protections that individual states have passed to protect consumers against insurance companies, creating one standard of insurance regulation for all states.

The Enzi bill cleared the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Wednesday on an 11-9 party-line vote, with Republicans supporting the measure, and all Democrats opposing the legislation. It is heading to the Senate Floor.

CALIFORNIA IMPACT: Enzi’s bill is seen to be particularly harmful in California , which has created a regulatory framework that goes beyond that standard and provides greater protections for consumers, health care providers, as well as small businesses that purchase insurance.

Protections for consumers that would be lost in California , with the following results:

  • Mandatory and standard benefits, such as maternity care, diabetic equipment, , osteoporosis treatment, mental health services, cancer testing and the ability to seek a second opinion would be lost.
  • Access to some specialists, such as optometrists, behavioral therapists or podiatrists could be denied.
  • Older workers, or employees with chronic conditions, could be denied coverage through discriminatory pricing and benefit designs.

GARAMENDI REPORT: Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi is particularly alarmed by the bill, and released this analysis of its impact on California on Tuesday. Find a full copy of the report, “Bad for Business, Bad for Employees,” which includes full lists of the California protections jeopardized, on his website, at:
http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0400-news/0100-press-releases/0070-2006/upload/BadforBusiness-S1955report.pdf

According to Garamendi’s analysis, the Enzi bill would discriminate against businesses considered “high-risk,’’ had too many older workers, or too many women employees of child-bearing age by making health insurance more difficult to obtain and more expensive. Additionally, this bill would pave the way for more bare-bones health plans to proliferate, without government oversight.

DETAILS: The bill is actually three parts:

  1. The creation of “small business health plans,” which are a revised version of “association health plans” (AHPs), which allow employers to offer insurance without state oversight and consumer protections, opening up patients and businesses to fraudulent practices.
  2. The elimination of California ’s and other states’ “community rating” rules designed to protect small employers that might be denied the ability to purchase insurance for their workers.
  3. An effort at “harmonization” of state consumer protections, setting a process to eliminate such state-based protections and setting a federal ceiling.

To read the bill S.1955, visit: http://thomas.loc.gov/

With the bill heading to the full Senate, a range of consumer, health, doctors, patient, and community organizations are asking U.S. Senators to oppose the measure, including U.S. Senators Boxer and Feinstein.

California groups are asked to call, write or fax Senator Diane Feinstein,
The address is: 331 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC , 20510 .
The phone is: 202-224-3841
The fax is: 202-228-3954

A sample letter from many national groups is at the website for the National Partnership for Women and Families:

http://www.nationalpartnership.org/portals/p3/library/HealthCareQualityPatientsRights/GroupletterS1955.pdf

For more information, contact Hanh Kim Quach , Policy Coordinator, Health Access, at 916-497-0923, or hquach@health-access.org.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: