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New York, Wisconsin To Debate Health System Change Proposals

Armen Hareyan's picture

Two newspapers recently published articles detailing the debate inthe New York and Wisconsin state legislatures over health care.Summaries of the coverage appear below.

  • NewYork: The New York State Legislature early next year is expected todebate whether the state's soaring insurance premiums can be betteraddressed through price controls on insurance premiums or through thecurrent system, which bases premiums on the amount of money insurersestimate they will pay out each year, the Rochester Democrat and Chroniclereports. Supporters of a "prior-approval" system, including Gov. EliotSpitzer (D), say price controls could address the problem by decreasingprofits and spending by insurers, which have "become more financiallysuccessful" since price controls were partially lifted in 1996,according to the Democrat and Chronicle. Troy Oeschner,deputy state insurance superintendent for medical insurance, said,"We're not saying as soon as we get prior approval, rates will becomeaffordable for everybody. But under current law, we really don't have away to enforce provisions against the plans gaming the system." Thehealth insurance industry, which wants to retain the current"file-and-use" system, says that the market should set premium ratesand that it would be difficult to keep politics out of a prior-approvalsystem, the Democrat and Chronicle reports. Geoffrey Taylor, a spokesperson for insurer Excellus BlueCross BlueShield,said, "Classically, what happened under prior approval in years past,during election cycles you would see suppression of rates, thenafterwards try to catch up, then get sticker-shock prices." Taylornoted that premium rate increases in New York have been consistent withother states' increases over the past decade. He said the key tocontrolling premiums is to slow the growth in prescription drug andmedical care costs. The chairs of the state Assembly and Senateinsurance committees have said they are open to change, but they are"not committed to it," the Democrat and Chronicle reports (Gallagher, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 8/6).
  • Wisconsin:The Republican-controlled state Assembly has proposed a health careplan that would provide tax exemptions for health savings accounts toreduce the cost of health insurance for state residents -- a "sharpcontrast" to the Democrat-controlled state Senate's proposal to provide coverage for nearly all state residents, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelreports. Supporters of the Assembly plan, which would pair HSAs withhigh-deductible health plans, say it would reduce prices by allowingconsumers to shop for the least expensive, best-quality care.Supporters and policy analysts acknowledge that HSAs would do little tomake insurance more affordable for low-wage workers and people withpre-existing conditions. Supporters view the plan as one of manychanges that would improve the state's health care system, as opposedto a complete overhaul. Critics of the Assembly proposal say thathigh-deductible plans do not necessarily lower total health costsbecause patients still must pay high deductibles. The Assembly did notintroduce any measures that would require health care providers toprovide cost information to consumers, but supporters of the planbelieve public demand will lead providers to disclose prices(Boulton/Forster, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/4).


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