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March 14, 2005

HR.525: Killing State Health Care Regulation

What's the next legislative atrocity coming down the pike from the GOP Congress? So many to choose from, but a sleeper is H.R. 525, labeled the "Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005," which has a committee hearing this Wednesday. With a name like that, you know evil's afoot and the plan here is to exempt more health insurance plans from state regulation.

Currently, large national companies' health plans are exempt under the federal ERISA law from state regulation, such as many "patients bill of rights" laws, but rather than create a federal patient bill of rights law, as Bush promised back in 2000, the rightwing idea of "fairness" is extending the lack of patients' rights to more families. The idea is to create "Association Health Plans" that any business could join and thereby escape state health care regulations, just like the big corporations do. As its sponsors argue, the goal is to "give them freedom from costly state-mandated benefit packages"-- i.e. all those pesky requirements for immunizations and decent consumer protection.

Proponents argue that any kind of health insurance is better than none, so this legislation will expand health insurance coverage. But an Urban Institute study projects that such plans would actually decrease health coverage, since healthy individuals would be the ones most likely to jump into such plans, driving up costs of other plans and decreasing health insurance availability for the sickest and most vulnerable workers.

This bill is so bad that thousands of organizations oppose it, including the Republican Governors Association.

Check out these resources on the bill and call your Congressmember.

Posted by Nathan at March 14, 2005 09:13 AM