Capitol News

June 15, 2006 - 10:04

In May, the Senate began considering health legislation
that would allow small businesses to band together
in insurance pools to offer health insurance policies
to workers. If passed, the measure would override
state health benefit and cost regulations
and allow organizations
and insurers to offer scaleddown,
low-cost small-business
health plans as long as they
include comprehensive coverage,
reported the Wall Street Journal.

The controversial S. 1955 or
Health Insurance Marketplace
Modernization and Affordability
Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike
Enzi (R-Wyo.), comes amid rising
health costs at a time when
more than 11 million of the
roughly 46-million uninsured
Americans work for small businesses
or are family members of
small-business employees.

Supporters, like the National Federation of
Independent Business, feel the legislation is likely to
ease health care pains without creating a costly government
program. By forming purchasing pools,
small businesses — including even large growers —
will be able to operate the larger corporations that
are currently exempt from state coverage requirements,
pointed out Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). Many
industry associations such as the American Nursery
and Landscape Association
support the bill.

The AARP retirees group, the
American Diabetes Association,
the American Cancer Society and
other critics think the bill will
weaken protection for patients
and result in insurance policies
that won’t protect ill workers.
They also believe it would distort
insurance pools and price older,
sicker workers who need extensive
coverage out of health care
by allowing younger, healthier
employees to pay less for policies
that have minimal or no benefits.

While many Republicans support
the bill, most Democrats
back an alternate bill by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
and Blanch Lincoln (D-Ark.) that would allow small
businesses to join a national insurance pool, according to
the New York Times. The Senate was expected to hold a
cloture vote near the end of May.

Bush Signed Tax Bill

President Bush has recently signed tax legislation that awards $70 billion
in tax cuts over five years. The bill provides a 2-year extension (through
2010) to the 15-percent tax rate for capital gains and dividends, makes Roth
IRAs available to high-income taxpayers, and awards tax relief to investors
and 15 million taxpayers who are facing the alternative minimum tax.

According to its supporters, the bill will keep money in the pockets of
Americans in the middle of the income distribution, and Republicans credit
the tax cuts, which debuted in 2003, for the improved economy and job
development.

The tax bill passed in the Senate on May 11 by a 54-44 vote and the
House on May 10 by a 244-185 vote; both votes were largely along partisan
lines. Passage of the bill is the first step in a 2-step GOP tax-cut strategy:
Later, a different bill containing up to $30 billion in tax breaks will advance.

High Court Considers Immigration Detail

Bush administration lawyers and a
group of workers recently brought a
small piece of the immigration debate
before the Supreme Court: They
advocated the Court allow manufacturer
Mohawk Industries Inc. to be
sued for allegedly using recruiters to
find and hire illegal workers.

Justices will consider whether corporations
that contract services can be
considered an illegal enterprise under
the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970, a
law originally designed to fight organized
crime. Congress expanded the
reach of the law in 1996 to include violations
such as hiring illegal workers.

Justices have voiced concern over
whether or not corporations fit into a
confusing definition of enterprises that
fall under the anti-racketeering law,
which focuses mostly on associations
of individuals. Among other concerns,
the Justices are reluctant to allow the
expansion of the law’s definition past
its original intention, reported CNN.
The court’s decision could affect immigration
debates as well as criminal and
civil uses of RICO.

About The Author

Meghan Boyer is associate editor of
GPN. She can be reached at mboyer
@sgcmail.com or (847) 391-1013.

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