Earlier this month, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed legislation allowing small businesses to band together and form larger associations that could provide health insurance to their employees. These larger associations would give individual small business owners the chance to purchase group health policies at more affordable rates. Advocates of this legislation suggest that small businesses and trade associations will be able to negotiate lower prices for their employees’ health care and more people would receive health insurance coverage as a result.
Critics argue that when passed, the legislation would bypass current state mandates requiring coverage for specific treatments. They fear that that this legislation would only benefit those who are healthy and place others at risk. Currently, New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states with mandates for coverage of inherited bleeding disorders. The bill, S. 1955, was sponsored by Senate Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY). The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) and other advocates for the bleeding disorders community are particularly concerned that given the high cost of hemophilia treatment, association health plans could opt to cover a few products or none at all, thus jeopardizing the health of people with bleeding disorders.
Additionally, the Health Care Choice Act, sponsored by Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ), passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this year. This legislation allows insurance companies to offer policies across state lines. The danger being that regulatory jurisdiction will be maintained in one primary state, even if the plan is offered in all 50 states. This could give insurance companies an opportunity to choose the states with the fewest consumer protections to offer their policies. NHF opposes this legislation and is concerned that premiums would become prohibitive and benefits would be reduced for patients with hemophilia and other bleeding disorders.
Despite these recent actions, further movement on these bills remains uncertain. Democrats are fiercely opposing both pieces of legislation, and it is unclear if the House and Senate leadership will decide to pursue this legislation this year. NHF will closely monitor both situations and take action to ensure that this legislation will not jeopardize healthcare for people with bleeding disorders.