|BILL OF HEALTH?
Should the government pass legislation
regulating managed care?
July 21, 1998
in this forum:
Should Congress pass legislation regulating managed care? What responsibility do employers share in the current managed care problem? What are the benefits of managed care? Isn't the HMO debate really a debate over whether health-care should be affordable and accessible for all? Is there a better system for healthcare and if so, what is it? Jim Anets of Dayton, OH, asks: Everyone is talking about rising costs and decreasing care, but isn't the debate over HMOs really a debate over whether health-care should be affordable and accessible for all?
Bill Gradison, president of Health Insurance Association of America, responds:
Because of the overtly political nature of the current debate over managed care, the issue of whether health care shoijld be affordable and accessible to all, unfortunately, is receiving short shrift. Back in 1993-1994, during what was termed a health care "crisis," there were approximately 37.5 million Americans who at any given time lacked health insurance. The pundits no longer say there's a health care crisis, yet the number of people who at any given time lack health coverage is around 42 million.
We believe that the major managed care proposals currently before Congress will raise costs and raise the number of people without health insurance. To illustrate, the Congressional Budget Office estimated recently that the Kennedy-Dingell "Patients' Bill of Rights Act of 1998" would raise health insurance premiums by four percent. We believe that the CRB's estimate is way low. Nevertheless, CBO's projected four percent increase could lead to a minimum of 800,000 people losing or not obtaining health insurance coverage, according to a 1996 CBO estimate that every one percent increase in the cost of health insurance leads to 200,000 people losing or not gaining health insurance.Furthermore, another estimate by the Barents Group indicates that just the liability provision an of the "Patients' Bill of Rights Act of 1998" by itself would raise insurance premiums by 8.6 percent.
The unintended consequences of the major managed care legislative proposals currently before Congress would be higher costs to consumers and higher numbers of uninsured Americans. Indeed, not enough consideration is being given to how proposed "patient protections" conflicts with making health insurance more affordable and more accessible to all.
Judy Waxman, director of government affairs at Families USA, responds:
Families USA is dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health and long term care for all Americans. To ensure that consumers receive high-quality care, they must have a set of basic protections such as those recommended by the President's managed care commission and those provided by the Patients' Bill of Rights Act (S. 1890, H.R. 3605) sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Representative Richard Gephardt (D-MO).
These protections can be provided affordably to all Americans. A recent report by the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the Daschle-Gephardt Patients' Bill of Rights Act, with its full range of consumer protections, would cost only pennies a day: CBO estimates that the legislation, if enacted, would increase consumer costs by $2.00 a month and business costs by $5.00 a month for each covered employee. We believe--and polls show the public agrees--that this is a small price to pay for high-quality care. Contrary to the claims of the insurance industry, there is little evidence that such a small additional cost would significantly increase the number of persons without any insurance coverage.