AHIP Universal Health Care Plan To Slow Health Care Cost Growth

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America's Health Insurance Plans on Wednesday announced a universal health coverage proposal that would be funded in part by slowing the growth of health care costs by 30% over five years and reducing inefficiencies, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Under the plan, a public-private advisory group would be established to make recommendations to reduce wasteful spending, change the provider payment system and reduce administrative costs (Zhang, Wall Street Journal, 12/4). AHIP said its goal is to slow the growth of health care spending from 6.6% annually to 4.7% annually, which would save more than $500 billion over five years (Lengell, Washington Times, 12/4). The savings would be used to provide coverage to the uninsured and reduce costs for the insured.

AHIP restated its position announced last month in support of requirements to offer coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions as long as all U.S. residents would be required to obtain coverage. AHIP's plan would not require employers to provide health coverage for workers, but it would provide tax incentives to encourage small businesses to offer coverage (Wall Street Journal, 12/4). The proposal also calls for a national health plan for small businesses that would provide "essential services," such as primary and emergency care (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3). The plans would be portable and would not be subject to minimum coverage requirements imposed by states. The group also supports expanding Medicaid and SCHIP (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 12/4).

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AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said, "We need to move forward with health care reform, and it needs to be comprehensive and it needs to include quality improvement, value improvement, cost containment and access" (Washington Times, 12/4). Ignagni said, "The process is just beginning," adding, "I think the American people want the problem solved" (Wall Street Journal, 12/4). James Roosevelt, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan, said, "We have laid out a workable, realistic path to universal coverage ... We want to make sure no one falls through the cracks of our health care system because of age, health status or income" (Wangsness, Boston Globe, 12/4).

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Anthony Coley, a spokesperson for Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), said, "There's a spirit of optimism about our work to ensure quality, affordable health care for all Americans -- and today's announcement adds to that optimism," adding, "The insurance industry has advanced serious proposals that deserve serious analysis and consideration" (Edney, CongressDaily, 12/3). An aide to Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said the senator "is very glad to see the insurance industry come to the table to participate and looks forward to what he hopes will be constructive discussions," adding, "This proposal certainly adds to the momentum for everyone to come together and work to achieve comprehensive health care reform" (Washington Times, 12/4).

Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care For America Now, said, "Of course, there's nothing in the industry's plan that would limit their multimillion dollar CEO salaries or require companies to spend the lion's share of health insurance premiums on providing health care instead of on administrative costs, fat cat salaries, and skyrocketing profits" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3). He added, "The health insurance industry's vision of health care reform lets them keep charging whatever they want and increase their profits while sticking families and taxpayers with high costs" (Los Angeles Times, 12/4).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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