March 3, 2006 – Monday's Senate Health, Hospital and Human Services Committee meeting on St. John has been canceled due to concerns raised about a proposed bill to provide mandatory government-sponsored health insurance for private sector employees who currently do not have this amenity. The program will also be available to those who are self-employed.
Instead, Sen. Craig Barshinger, chairman of the Health Committee, will hold an informal town meeting at the Westin Resort and Villas to inform residents about the bill. The town meeting begins at 6 p.m.
Anyone who wants to speak about the bill is invited to make his or her views known at the town meeting.
Barshinger said he canceled the Senate meeting because the intent of the Health Committee meeting was to move the bill on to the Rules Committee. He said the bill is not ready for that step.
"People are still weighing in with good concerns," he said.
Barshinger said the bill has been entirely rewritten since it first aired several months ago.
The Senate began a series of public meetings and roundtable discussions about the issue in January. (See Health Reform Initiative Bill Discussed at Meeting ).
While numerous people said they supported the bill, some were opposed. Opponents said the measure will place a burden on small businesses, which will have to pay half the $182 per month premium.
However, Barshinger said many people provided good input that helped forge the redrafted bill. He said the redrafted bill provides many changes, including a provision that provides health insurance for domestic partners.
The senator said a public meeting will be held on St. Croix, but he has not scheduled a date.
Barshinger said he expects the latest version of the bill to be available Friday afternoon at www.visenate.net, the Senate Majority Web site.
The senator said that he expects someone from the Waste Management Authority to attend the meeting to discuss the territory's old tire issue. Planning and Natural Resources Department officials made the rounds of St. John businesses this week to instruct them to get rid of old tires. However, the officials did not offer a way for businesses to do so.
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