Small Business Health Insurance Proposal Could Hurt Diabetics

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Proponents say association health plans would increase small businesses' bargaining power with health care providers and give employers freedom from costly state-mandated benefit packages.

But people living with diabetes say it's those mandates from the state that protect them.

Twelve-year-old Haley Link doesn't let her Type 1 diabetes get in the way of her very active life. She's very disciplined about checking her blood sugar and taking her insulin. Haley says, "Just to see what my sister went through and the bad decisions she made. I choose to go the opposite way and do the right thing."

Back when Haley's older sister Jackie was diagnosed with diabetes, the state of Indiana didn't require insurance companies to pay for her medical supplies. That changed in 1997, much to the relief of their mom Shauna.

But now she has a new worry: If the federal government starts allowing small businesses to band together to buy health insurance, then their Association Health Plans or AHP's could bypass state laws that require insurers to cover these medical supplies. Shauna Link says, "My husband's self-employed and yes, it would be very good to have us get cheaper insurance through a pool, but it's an issue that the public needs to be aware of that these things may not be included in that type of insurance."

Indiana Senator Richard Lugar says he believes lawmakers must work together to make health coverage more affordable for small businesses, but in a statement he said, "...Opponents...point out that the provisions create increased opportunities for risk segmentation, that AHP's will be able to offer plans to healthy groups at better prices, leaving the more unhealthy people in the only market subject to state laws. This is a concern I take very seriously."

Shauna Link hopes the senator makes sure the bill specifically addresses the needs of diabetics so that everyone has the means to manage this disease as well as Haley is.

The American Diabetes Association wants to take action against Association Health Plans. Click here for more information.

To find out more about what proponents have to say about AHPs go to the website of The Coalition Supporting Access & Choice Through Association Health Plans. Click here for more information.