Health Insurance Reform Increasing Access, Cost
The battle for affordable health insurance reform is heating up in Washington. Following the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of Senator Kennedy's (D-MA) health care reform bill the White House has sought to separate itself from the bill. The CBO estimate put the cost of the bill in excess of $1 trillion over the next decade.
Health insurance reform is key to any plan according to President Obama.
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, states a government-run public option insurance plan is needed to create competition. President Obama and Sebelius have said the government-offered plan would be subject to the same rules that currently govern private health insurance providers. With more than 1,000 private insurers nationwide the White House has not explained how adding one more provider, that they claim will follow the same rules, will create competition.
Obama and administration officials have used straw-man arguments against GOP politicians, physicians, and others currently opposed to the prevailing reform plan. The President claims the cost of doing nothing will far exceed any price tag attached to reform plans by the CBO. Leading GOP officials and physicians alike are not declaring nothing be done. Those opposed to the plan are worried a government-run health insurance plan will drive private insurers out of business.
President Obama, speaking yesterday to the American Medical Association, reiterated his point that Americans satisfied with their current health insurance plans will be allowed to keep that coverage. What worries some is the fact that a government run option could create false price floors, setting rates below what private insurers can compete with, thus driving them out of business and decreasing competition. This worry leads to the fact that if the government controls your insurance then they also control your health care in general.
Sebelius told reporters the government-provided public option is primarily needed in states where competition is lacking. The HHS Secretary says like her home state of Kansas, many states have primary health insurance providers, stifling competition. However, limiting and outlawing interstate sales of health plans is the real reason behind lacking competition in such areas. There is no discussion of allowing such sales in current legislation.
Another little reported fact concerning the Kennedy bill comes from section 133 of the bill. In this section, current union health care programs are grandfathered into the government's health care plan. President Obama told the AMA on Monday that action for health care reform must be quick lest the United States economy go the way of General Motors. In the speech the President blamed GM's health insurance liabilities as a major culprit of the U.S. automaker's downfall. With that being the case, keeping union health care plans is illogical.
In an interview with NPR, Sebelius discarded the notion that a government-run health insurance plan is a trojan-horse for an eventual single-payer system. She again did not explain how adding one more provider to the mix of thousands of insurers will create better competition. Private health insurance companies are likely to continue the fight against any government-provided public option over fears of market share loss and eventual bankruptcy. Physicians are likewise concerned over no discussion of tort reform and the possibility of additional bureaucracy with more government-run programs.