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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Disreputable Republican Congress Moves to Preempt State Insurance Consumer Protections

Disreputable Republican Congress Moves to Preempt State Insurance Consumer Protections

May 3, 2006

In this week's Newsweek, conservative columnist George Will openly wonders -- who are those 22% of the public who give the US Congress a positive job performance? I know who -- it's the crowd supporting the dangerous bill outlined below:

For some time, federal legislation known as the "Enzi Bill" (after it's Wyoming Senate sponsor) has been picking up steam in Congress. This legislation would preempt most many of our basic insurance law protections in Massachusetts. We have not blogged or worked on it because the whole Massachusetts delegation, House and Senate, are opposed. But it's picking up steam, and Senator Majority Leader Frist is now prioritizing it on the Senate calendar. Word is if it passes the Senate, it may pass the House as is, thus avoiding a conference committee. Implications for the new Massachusetts reform law are unknown, but rumors suggest some have considered exemption Massachusetts from it. This is a terrible bill, and even though there's not much for us to do, we need to start talking about it.

Here's the new Families USA summary:

The Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization Act (HIMMA, S. 1955), also known as the “Enzi bill,” has been passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and may come to the Senate floor any time within the next three weeks. This bill would strip away state-mandated benefits for private insurance, impede access to health care providers, and undermine ratings rules that prevent insurers from discriminating based on health status, age, sex, and other factors. Overall, this bill has the potential to negatively affect the health coverage of more than 85 million people in the United States. (For more information about this bill and who opposes it, see our Enzi resource center.)

This is one of the most alarming and far-reaching health care bills to move through Congress in years, but it has managed until now to stay under the radar. The bill is remarkably complex—so complex that even supporters of the bill don’t realize that it would strip state benefit mandates for all types of private coverage, not just for those who join small business health plans. In most cases, these mandates were enacted because insurers would not otherwise cover the services. Some examples of the state-mandated benefits that would be lost are mammography screenings, diabetic supplies and education, alcoholism treatment, mental health treatment, and colorectal screenings.

We need you to weigh in with your Senators if you have not done so already. Call your Senators toll-free at 1-800-828-0498 and tell them to “Vote No on HIMMA.” Right now, the outcome in the Senate may come down to one or two key votes, so the result could swing either way.