June 26. 2013 4:47PM

Compromise plan to narrowly align state insurance rules with 'Obamacare' sails through House, Senate

Staff Report

CONCORD -- The subject of much consternation and debate earlier in the legislative session and as recently as last week, a compromise plan to narrowly align some of the state's insurance rules with provisions of the Affordable Care Act easily cleared final passage in the House and Senate Wednesday.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 148, formerly House Bill 668, on a voice vote, while the House roll call in favor was a lopsided 225-128.

The bill now moves to Gov. Maggie Hassan and she is expected to sign it into law.

“This measure is essential for protecting consumers and ensuring that we do not completely cede control of our health insurance market to the federal government,” said her spokesman, Marc Goldberg. “The governor appreciates the willingness of legislators to rise above ideology and reach constructive compromise on this important legislation.”

The House had initially passed a plan to broadly align the state small market insurance rules with the ACA, but Senate Republicans were concerned that the House, along with Hassan and the state Insurance Department, were trying to force the state into creating its own state-based exchange under the federal law.

Those Republicans cited an existing state law, passed last year when the GOP controlled both the House and Senate, that forbids the state from creating its own exchange. Democratic Gov. John Lynch signed that bill at the time.

The compromise plan passed Wednesday carves out state-regulated rules on "age banding" to avoid the potential implementation of pure community rating, which both sides realized would most likely lead to increased premiums and an upward costs spiral.

There was no debate in the Senate.

In the House, Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, opposed the bill, saying it will reduce the minimal flexibility state insurance companies have now in setting rates and move toward community rating, which will increase the costs of insurance for young people and those in good health.

But House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee Chair Ed Butler, D-Hart's Location, said the bill is a precise description of how market rules are to be implemented and allows the insurance department to continue to do its job.