Thursday, December 17, 2009

There's room for improvement, group says

Earlier this week, the American Benefits Council (Council) – an association representing primarily large employers and other organizations that sponsor directly or administer health and retirement plans covering more than 100 million Americans – submitted a letter to Senator Reid and Senator McConnell indicating that it finds the current Senate legislation unacceptable.

The Council wrote, “We are unable to support the Senate bill in its current form and are increasingly disturbed that significant progress has yet to be made to address the problems it poses for employer-sponsored health care. Without significant improvements, we will have no alternative but to oppose the legislation as it is considered further by the Senate.”

Suggested improvements. The Council suggests the following improvements:
  • eliminate the tax on retiree drug subsidies,

  • delete annual taxes on insurers, self-insured plans and other stakeholders,

  • make the high-cost plan excise tax fairer and less disruptive,

  • strengthen the cost and quality reforms,

  • encourage all individuals to obtain coverage,

  • allow a 90-day penalty-free waiting period for enrollment, and

  •  include meaningful medical liability reform.

Penalty-free waiting period. One of the suggested improvements involves a bill provision that provides that employers who provide insurance would be required to make full-time workers eligible for coverage within a maximum of 90 days. If a worker is not eligible after 30 days, employers would face a penalty of $400, and the penalty would grow to $600 after 60 days.

Senator Landrieu (D-LA) has offered an amendment to this provision that would allow for a 90-day penalty-free waiting period before participant enrollment. The Council supports this amendment stating that it “will help many employers with high numbers of short-term workers to be able to continue sponsoring benefits for their employees.”


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