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Health Insurance Bill May be Dead

April 27, 1999
By: David Grebe
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 718

JEFFERSON CITY - The prognosis may be grim for health insurance reform this year. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, is designed to make it easier for small-business - and the self-employed - to get and keep health insurance.

Harlan's bill is languishing in a Senate committee - after it passed unanimously in the House. The bill is Harlan's primary focus this session.

He said there's still a chance it could be added on as an amendment.

Harlan said he wanted the bill assigned to the Senate's Insurance committee - chaired by fellow Columbia Democrat Sen. Ken Jacob.

Instead, the bill was assigned to the Senate Pension and General Laws Committee. Committee Chairman Sen. John Scott, D-St. Louis, would say only that a hearing on the bill will be held next week.

"It's unfortunate they chose not to hold a hearing sooner," Harlan said. "If it's not heard until next Tuesday, it's dead."

But Harlan said he'll be back next year. "Small business owners won't be in better shape next year than they are now," he said.

The bill includes tax credits for out-of-pocket medical expenses - and limits the criteria by which insurers can raise rates.

The tax credit section that has raised some legislative concern that along with other tax cut plans, the bill would cut state revenues far deeper than the governor has proposed.

Legislative staff put the cost of the House bill at more than $150 million. The governor has recommended tax cuts approaching $200 million in other areas such as raising the income tax dependency deduction.