Searching for Competitive Health Insurance in Florida
Some consumer groups and policy advocates claim a lack of competition is preventing affordable health insurance in Florida. Reports show that a handful of large insurers dominate the state's urban regions. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida currently holds nearly 50% of the market in the central Florida region stretching from Lakeland to Kissimmee. Groups such as Health Care for America now, who publicly support President Obama's goal of government-run health care, claim additional government intervention is needed to create more affordable health insurance in Florida.
According to a 2007 report by the American Medical Association, premium rates for family health insurance nearly doubled from 2000 to 2007. The average rate for a family in 2000 was $6,812, the average jumped to more than $11,000 by 2007. Critics blame insurance companies of raising their rates to increase profits and pushing rates across the market higher, making affordable health insurance in Florida harder to find.
Accusations of breaking anti-trust laws are now being thrown at insurance companies as groups like Health Care for America Now investigate the details of more than 400 insurance company mergers since the late 1990's. Critics say these mergers have stifled competition and led to increased rates in both Florida and nationwide. The call for a public insurance option comes from those claiming such plans would drive down prices and create affordable health insurance in Florida. The problem with a public plan, meaning government-set prices, is that an artificial price floor could arise, thus driving private companies out of the market.
Health Care for America Now and other critics of the current system seek to only reform the health insurance aspect of the industry. Rather than address the costs themselves and the reasoning behind such increases, insurance companies solely take the blame on rising health care costs. Increased rates in chronic disease, medical malpractice insurance rates, uncompensated care, and increases in drug costs are just some of the challenges on the road to more affordable health insurance in Florida.
The insurance companies say the government agencies themselves responsible for ensuring the existence of competition haven't a problem with the current state of the market. Reports by the agencies take into account the rising costs of care across the board, most notably within the clinical aspect of care. Insurance companies claim their profit margins have shifted very little during the past decade, claiming increased risk in insurance pools due to higher chronic disease rates and new technology also push costs higher. Insurers say providers play just as much a role in creating and maintaining affordable health insurance in Florida as they do.
Creating affordable health insurance in Florida, and elsewhere, will take many steps. Examining cost-benefit ratios of various providers, increased access to and more education on the benefits of preventive care, and allowing the free market to work are all key to lower costs. The call from Health Care for America Now and other groups for more government oversight and intervention on insurance companies ignores the many other factors of health care costs. Insurers and providers must work together to solve costs and create the best access possible. Government intervention will create false prices within the market, driving out private companies and forcing everyone onto the "public option". Dreamed-up floor prices set by bureaucrats in Tallahassee will only hamper efforts at increasing access to more affordable health insurance in Florida.