By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–Alabama’s response to the Affordable Healthcare Act passed out of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee with multiple amendments.
To be named the Alabama Health Insurance Marketplace or Small Employer Insurance Marketplace for companies who employ 50 or less.
HB245, sponsored by Representative Greg Wren (R-Montgomery), passed with a 7-1 vote after a public hearing.
Wren assured senators, “It has sunset and repealer provisions. In the event that the U.S. Supreme Court would declare the Affordable Healthcare Act unconstitutional, this legislation disappears,” said Wren.
He said that Alabama’s motto is ‘We dare defend our rights’ and that this legislation would prevent the federal government from dictating how Alabama would provide health coverage should the Affordable Healthcare Act be enacted into law.
“This is a state’s rights, state’s sovereignty issue to make sure that we have an Alabama plan so that we have a system specific to Alabama citizens so that we do not default to a federally-run insurance exchange if we don’t act by December 31 that is what we will have,” said Wren.
Ragan Ingram, Governmental Relations Manager for the Alabama Department of Insurance said, “Today, the message I have to bring to you is we are concerned about this bill at this point in this format. There are two things that jump out to the Administration and the Department of Insurance. The first one is the large size of the governing board. We think it is unwieldy and could cause problems going forward–as the exchange if it were to be formed–would cause problems in governance because of its sheer size.”
The bill calls for a board of 22 members in the engrossed version.
Wren responded, “This size board with 21 o 35 members that operate quite effectively.”
Ingram’s second opposition was cost. He said, “It will cost $30 to $50 million annually to operate the exchange after the federal money has run out. …We are concerned that we may create this big entity that no one will want to buy the policies because that will be more expensive than policies outside the exchange market.”
Several amendments to the bill were approved.
Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) added three amendments. The first and second were added to insure “no insurance provider is forced into a contract for a health plan where he or she does not agree to. It would allow the provider to decline participation in an insurance plan that was bought out by somebody else.”
In Bussman’s third amendment, the President Pro Temp of the Senate would appoint one board member from a list of three names recommended by the Alabama Podiatric Association.
Senator Jerry Fielding (D-Sylacauga)added an amendment appointing the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health to the board.
Senator Roger Bedford (R-Russellville) added a new section with his amendment requiring that staff and employees be under the Alabama Ethics Act meaning they will have to file an annual economic interest report.
Senator Slade Blackwell add one member to the board by amendment. This member would be appointed by the President Pro Temp from three recommendations of the State Chiropractors’ Association
The bill now awaits position on the Senate Special Order.