Friday, 30 June 2006 10:00

Small biz health insurance legislation smacked down

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi's (R-Wyo.) Health Insurance Marketplace Moderniza-tion and Affordability Act, S. 1955, failed to advance after being just five votes short of a motion to invoke cloture.

Cloture is a method of limiting debate or ending a filibuster in the Senate. At least 60 senators must vote in favor before cloture can be invoked.

The vote fell along party lines with Republicans in favor of invoking cloture and Democrats strongly against the motion. The final vote was 55-43.

Only two Democrats voted in favor of the cloture motion - Senators Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

S. 1955 would have allowed small businesses to band together across state lines to purchase health insurance. This bill would have also enabled businesses and trade associations to offer affordable health insurance to their employees and working families. It is unclear whether the legislation will be brought up again in the 109th Congress.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) had prepared an amendment to improve S. 1955 so that the individual insurance market would not be subject to benefit mandate preemption.Critics of the bill, including several state insurance commissioners, claimed that existing state laws for small group health insurance provide better health care benefits for small business employees than this bill would, and that the new federal law would have overridden the existing state laws. Supporters said it would have provided lower cost health insurance to small businesses across the entire country.