Small-biz health insurance legislation to be revived

Chair of House Health and Human Services Committee wants another go at bill

0 | Legislature, Insurance

— A health insurance bill from the 2010 legislative session that pitted the state's small-business lobby against the Kansas Insurance Department will be revived in the 2012 session.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, the Wichita Republican who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, said today that she will re-introduce a fresh version of House Bill 2682, which failed to get out of the House Taxation Committee last time it was introduced.

The measure, if approved, would allow small-business owners to buy or subsidize an employee's purchase of an individual health insurance policy and get a tax credit, as do employers who offer coverage through a group plan.

Current law prohibits that. Officials with the Kansas Insurance Department said during the 2010 debate that easing the restriction would undermine the state's small-group health insurance market.

The bill "would eventually weaken or destroy the small-group market as it currently exists because of the potential impact on premiums for those employers who choose to remain in the small-group market," Linda Sheppard, director of the Accident and Health Division at the insurance department, testified in 2010.

But department officials today said it was too soon to say whether they would oppose the measure a second time around.

"It would be premature for us to comment now," said Bob Hanson, agency spokesman.

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Rep. Brenda Landwehr, the Wichita Republican who heads the House Health and Human Services Committee.

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Landwehr said one benefit of the proposal is that it would allow workers to have "portable" health coverage they could take with them to subsequent jobs.

"It's a very simple bill in that it says employers can pay for individual insurance policies," she said. "So, say I go to work for a small employer, and I come in with an individual policy. And then the employer, which today is illegal to do, could pay the premium or part of the premium and then receive the same business tax exemption" allowed for employers who provide a group plan.

Landwehr has been in the House since 1995. She said she is considering running for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jean Schodorf, also a Wichita Republican. She said she would decide sometime within the next few weeks.

"I've had a lot of people ask me and encourage me to do it," she said.

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