Obama Wants National Health Insurance Exchange
President Barack Obama has voiced favor of a US House plan to develop a nationwide health insurance exchange that reportedly will allow people to buy affordable health insurance. Obama’s desire for a national insurance exchange echoes his endorsement of the concept that he made during his 2008 presidential campaign.
As the House and Senate Democrats get ready to merge their versions of the health reform legislation, many of the proposals presented in the past months, weeks, and days are still being debated. The idea of a health insurance exchange is one of the issues in the fray.
Currently, the House plan is to set up a nationwide health insurance exchange, while the Senate calls for each state to establish its own exchange. House members believe this approach is not effective. What will emerge from the negotiations between the House and Senate when they discuss the idea of an exchange is anyone’s guess.
The idea of a national health insurance exchange is to allow individuals to shop for the best plan at the best price that fits their needs. During Obama’s presidential campaign, he said he envisioned a plan that provided a one-stop shopping opportunity for health insurance, with details about the benefits and coverage spelled out in clear language so consumers could understand what they were buying.
According to Obama’s vision during his campaign of a national health insurance exchange, such a plan would also act as a watchdog group that sets standards and rules for participating insurance companies and helps make coverage affordable and accessible. Insurance companies would be required to justify above-average premium increases, and the exchange would publicize differences between the available insurance plans.
Not everyone believes a national health insurance exchange is a fair and viable idea. According to Freedom Works, an organization chaired by former US House majority leader Dick Armey and which fights for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom, an exchange “would increase bureaucratic control and politicize health care choices, which would result in limits on a patient’s freedom to choose a health care plan that fits his or her personal needs and desires.”
Freedom Works goes on to state that “politicians and bureaucrats would likely use their power to pressure providers into offering the type of care that government officials rather than consumers deemed worthy,” and that preferences would be determined by people who had more lobbying clout.
President Obama will be meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday to discuss the bill and a national health insurance exchange. If Obama gets his way, it would give House Democrats one of their main demands. One of many issues then to be decided would be who would run the new health insurance exchange.
Associated Press, Jan 12, 2010
Freedom Works, June 9, 2009
Orthopedics Today, 2008; 28:26
Wall Street Journal, Jan. 13, 2010