Government

Iowa House approves association health plans

Options similar to insurance but with strings

Rep. John Forbes

D-Urbandale
Rep. John Forbes D-Urbandale
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DES MOINES — The Iowa House approved a legislative package supporters said will allow small business and associations to offer health insurance plans that would not have to meet that don’t meet Affordable Care Act rules, such as covering pre-existing conditions.

The mash-up of two separate pieces of legislation was approved 69-30 and will return to the Senate for concurrence.

Senate File 2349, which the Senate approved 33-17, would create “a type of multiple-employer welfare arrangement” that would allow small businesses to associate for the purpose of offering health insurance coverage to employees.

Bill manager Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn, said the Iowa Bankers Association with 28,000 members and the Iowa Petroleum Marketers with 2,000 members are examples of how the legislation would work.

Of the 154 lobbyists registered on the bill, the Home Builders Association of Iowa, the Iowa restaurant Association, UnityPoint and the Iowa health Care Association supported it.

The House amended the bill to include House File 2364, that would create “health benefit plans” for “certain agricultural organizations.”

It would not be insurance, but “function similar to insurance,” according to Rep. John Landon, R-Ankeny.

Out of 88 lobbyists registered on the bill, only Wellmark and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation were registered in favor of it.

Like a number of representatives, Rep. Jo Oldson, D-Des Moines, was skeptical of the “sort of a non-insurance, insurance animal in front of us.”

“I don’t think there’s anybody in here that’s going to doubt that we’ve heard from constituents worried about getting health insurance,” she said. “We’d all love to find a great solution, but I will have to say I cannot support this solution tonight. I feel like it is a short-term, ‘feel-good’ solution that has some long-term ramifications that aren’t likely to play out so well.”

Rep. John Forbes, D-Des Moines, agreed the bill was not perfect, “but it is an option for all Iowans to look at.”

Lawmakers are fortunate to have health care coverage included in their benefit package, he said, but many Iowans can’t afford health insurance premiums of $20,000 to $30,000 a year plus thousands in out-of-pocket expenses.

Association health insurance plans, he said, are an option for those families.

“No one is telling them they have to buy it,” he said.

The legislation would allow insurers to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, limit coverage by not paying for maternity care, for example, and set lifetime caps for benefits.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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