This morning legislators made the bad Blue Cross bill to create a new health insurance marketplace in the state even worse. As is now common practice at the legislature, Republicans introduced a 16 page amendment to the health exchange bill without making the changes available for public scrutiny before the meeting. Although insurance companies and others were privy to the committee substitute, no consumer group knew of the proposed alterations.
Upon inspection it is obvious why Republicans would want to hide this legislation from view. The board governing the health exchange still allows insurance companies to help regulate themselves. And, shockingly, the exchange is financed by taxing the small businesses and families that purchase coverage in the exchange. Those with low incomes are exempt from the tax. That means that the very people we need to maintain the viability of the exchange, the healthier, wealthier consumers, are the ones hit with a new health care tax if they buy coverage in the exchange.
This proposal is bad policy and it shows how far Republicans are willing to go to accommodate insurance companies. Insurers want to help regulate themselves and Republicans are determined to make that happen. Insurers did not want to help fund the exchange, so Republicans are violating campaign promises not to raise taxes just to keep the insurance industry happy.
So far Republicans are fighting every measure that would improve health care for families and small businesses and promoting every measure that would help insurance companies. In their first days in power, Republicans voted to fight health reform implementation. Now they are busy passing another law that implements health reform in a way that increases taxes on families and employers and allows insurance companies to regulate themselves.
As is also common practice these days no public comment was allowed on the health exchange bill. All amendments except the substitute offered by the bill sponsors were rejected. No consumer groups were consulted in drafting this latest version of the legislation.
We can still hope that things will change. But the next landing place for the exchange bill is the committee chaired by Rep. Jerry Dockham, the same lawmaker sponsoring the legislation.