The chief insurance lobbying group, the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) was called to emergency action last Thursday night to defend one of their most controversial additions to the health care reform debate. The result? AHIP lost. Has AHIP lost it’s lobbying power in the Senate or has the group begun to shy away from the reforms they had heavily pushed?
Late Thursday night after 10:45PM Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) proposed an amendment in the Senate Finance committee that would lower the penalty for not having insurance. Prior to the introduction of this amendment, the Senate Finance Committee already the strongest penalty of the three versions of the health care reform bills.
Senate HELP Committee: $750 per an individual starting at 150% Federal Poverty Level (Maximum for a family = $3,000)
House Bill: 2.5% of modified gross income (Maximum for a family= national average individual premium)
Senate Finance Committee (Prior to Schumer-Snowe Amendment): $750 per an individual 133-300% Federal Poverty Level (Maximum for a family = $1,500), $950 per individual above 300% Federal Poverty Level (Maximum for a family =$3,800)
Under the new amendment, the penalties would take affect in 2014, a year later than any other bill and after enactment of the remainder of the legislation. The penalty would increase gradually from $200 to $750 by 2017 regardless of income. In addition, the amendment lowered the waiver based on inability to afford the penalty from health expenditure taking up 10% of income to health expenditure as 8% of income or greater.
The amendment passed 22-1 with only Jon Kyl (R-AZ) voting against it.
According to Kaiser Health News AHIP members received an emergency notification to call Senator offices that night to urge this amendment to fail. The individual mandate is important to insurers. Because it requires every American to purchase health insurance, the individual mandate greatly increasing the number of those enrolled in private insurance.
However, Thursday night the Finance Committee members were less responsive to the industry action and more concerned with increasing affordability for working class Americans.
Posted by Emma Sandoe