Magazine article Workforce Management

Bill Could Put New Burden on Plan Sponsors

Magazine article Workforce Management

Bill Could Put New Burden on Plan Sponsors

Article excerpt

HEALTH BENEFITS

Health plan sponsors would face significant administrative challenges if a bill that would expand the government health insurance program for children becomes law despite having been vetoed this month.

Of particular concern for employers are provisions of the bill that would increase notification and disclosure requirements and extend the Family and Medical Leave Act for employees with family members injured during military service.

The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 was passed by Congress in late September in an attempt to allow millions of uninsured children to enroll in the government health care program. President Bush vetoed the bill, citing concerns about income eligibility levels for the program used by various states and the possibility of moving millions of children with private health insurance into the government health care system. At press time, Democratic congressional leaders were preparing for a veto-override vote.

There are enough votes in the Senate to accomplish that. The House of Representatives, though, is at least 20 votes short. Still, the Democratic leadership is at work on an intensive lobbying effort to persuade some members who voted against the bill to reverse their position.

Even if the veto stands, the provisions that affect employers are likely to survive efforts to craft a compromise measure to keep some kind of program in place, observers say. The current program expires November 16.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program is a joint federal-state effort that provides health care for children in families with income above Medicaid-eligibility thresholds. The states establish and administer the program and receive grants from the federal government to fund a portion of the health care provided to members.

The bill would give states the option to provide premium subsidies for qualified employer-sponsored coverage to low-income employees with children eligible for both the government program and employer-sponsored plans. The provision targets a segment of uninsured children whose parents have access to coverage through their employers but cannot afford the additional premiums for family coverage, says Paul Dennett, vice president, health policy at the American Benefits Council in Washington.

Under the bill, employers must notify employees about their ability to enroll in state health insurance programs and provide information on premium assistance to employees living in the states that offer such assistance. …

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