Six years ago, when President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law, small-business owners everywhere breathed a sigh of relief:While the law required businesses to provide employees with up to 12 weeks for family and medical leave each year, businesses with fewer than 50 employees were exempt from the provision.
During the State of the Union address in January, however, the president pledged to extend the law's provisions to small businesses, too.Although at press time there was no active drive in Congress to pursue the president's pledge, it's probably still a good idea to contact your congressional representative if you have concerns about how lifting the exemption on small businesses would affect you.
That's not to say that Congress hasn't been busy with insurance-related issues: A wave of legislation is currently being debated in both houses that seeks to protect patients' by regulating HMOs. The legislation includes bills that allow patients direct access to specialists without getting permission from their HMO, mandatory minimum lengths of stay in hospitals for certain procedures, and outside review for patients challenging denial of care, among other things. To track these bills, log on to the THOMAS site, run by the Library of Congress at http://thomas.loc.gov, and enter a search for the keyword "insurance."