Monday, March 8, 2010

Health Care Reform: Getting Close to a Final Bill

As Congressional leadership and the White House wrap up discussions on the final health care reform bill, details about the treatment of part-time and seasonal workers are starting to surface.

The White House fully supports a 90-day delay in auto-enrollment, meaning employers have about three months to sign their employees up for their health insurance plan. For now, that provision has made it into the final bill.

As far as part-time workers are concerned, Inside Health Policy (subscription required) is reporting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has secured a concession to include part-time workers in the soon-to-be-released health reform bill. The extent to which part-time workers are included is still unclear: there is a rumor that employers would be required to provide health insurance benefits, but we’ve also heard that part-time workers will be added together to count towards the 50 full-time employee threshold that defines small employers. For example, two part-time employees who work 20 hours a week would count as one full-time employee.

Since part-time workers are also critical to the attractions industry, we are now working to exempt part-time workers from any insurance mandate. Friday, IAAPA partnered with 18 like-minded industries to send a letter to Speaker Pelosi, reiterating our concern with including part-time workers under the employer mandate.

It is widely assumed that when the President called for an “up or down vote” in his speech on Wednesday, he was telling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the health care bill to the floor under budget reconciliation rules. To do this, Speaker Pelosi will bring the Senate bill to the House, amend it with the White House package of amendments and pass the amended bill with a simple majority. Then the Senate would take up the amended bill under reconciliation, where filibusters and amendments are not allowed and the bill only needs a 51-vote majority to pass. Since both chambers passed identical bills, there would be no need for a conference committee and the bill could go straight to the president.

President Obama has said he would like to pass a health care bill before Congress goes to Easter Recess on April 6. IAAPA members should watch their e-mail boxes for Action Alerts as the situation unfolds.

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