As Representative Verla Insko's high risk pool bill moved through the NC General Assembly's House Insurance Committee today, the members of the "public" (read lobbyists) speaking on the bill showed some of the fault lines in the opposition. This most conservative of health reform measures is supported by NC Blue Cross (although they reserve comment on the premium rates charged in the bill – they want them higher) but not by the NC Association of Health Plans. This is strange since Blue is the biggest member of the Association and, ironically enough, the Blue lobbyist speaking at the meeting in favor of the bill is on the board of the Association.
The other split comes in the small business world. Perry Morgan, lobbyist for NC100, the ultra-conservative small business association whose founders include Art Pope, spoke out against the bill. Spinning madly for traction, Ms. Morgan attacked not only the funding mechanism but suggested "means-testing" for the risk pool. This has to be one of the sillier statements of the day, since the thought that any lower-income person could possibly afford the $500 monthly premiums likely to be charged by the pool is laughable.
In contrast to Ms. Morgan, the usually restive (and more mainstream) small business association, NFIB, had nothing to say on the bill even though its director, Gregg Thompson, was at the meeting.
The split in opposition to this bill shows the broad bipartisan nature of the legislation and the fundamentally conservative nature of this reform. The bill got a favorable report today and now it's off to the Finance Committee.
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