Health Insurers Hope For Move On Responsible Health Care Agenda

By

Washington

Donald Young, president of the Health Insurance Association of America, says he hopes the change in the Senate, as well as the expanded Republican margin in the House, will allow President Bush to move forward with a “responsible” health care agenda.

The administration, Young says, should advance proposals to establish tax incentives that help low income and middle income people buy health insurance, as well as new measures to encourage the purchase of long-term care insurance.

Young says he hopes President Bush and the new Congressional leadership will oppose costly new mandates and expensive regulations.

Joel Wood, senior vice president of government affairs for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, adds that one controversial measure, a Patients Bill of Rights, would probably be considered dead right now but for declarations from the White House that it wants to see some HMO reforms enacted.

However, Wood notes, the reforms backed by the White House are far different from those supported by Democratic leaders such as Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

Still, Wood says, the change in the Senate means there probably will be less pressure to create new mandates and more efforts to establish incentives for the purchase of private insurance coverage.

But given the close margins in the Senate, Wood says, he does not expect to see sweeping changes.

The 2002 midterm election represents an “overwhelming rejection” of personal injury lawyers, according to Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, Washington.

In seven of the nine most competitive Senate races last week, she says, the candidate receiving funding from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America lost, Ignagni says.

“No matter how much money personal injury lawyers spend to elect lawsuit-friendly candidates, voters consistently reject the litigation lottery agenda,” she says.

“The sue first, ask questions later blame game that personal injury lawyers pursue evidently fails to resonate with voters,” Ignagni says.

AAHP says that according to political analysis, the nine most competitive Senate races last week were in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.

The candidates backed by trial lawyers won only in Arkansas and South Dakota.

“The sweeping defeat of personal injury lawyer candidates is a victory for consumers,” Ignagni says.

On another liability-related issue, creation of a federal backstop for losses caused by acts of terrorism, the general view is that the change in Senate leadership should not hamper the legislation.

Many Republicans have expressed concerns regarding the liability provisions of the consensus bill, which allows plaintiffs to sue American businesses that are targets of terrorist attacks for punitive damages.

There is speculation that Republicans may now try to hold the bill over until next year, hoping to get stronger tort reform language.

But Phil Anderson, senior vice president of government affairs for the American Council of Life Insurers, says he does not expect to see a delay.

President Bush has identified terrorism insurance legislation as his number one economic priority, he notes.

Anderson says he thinks every effort will be made to pass the bill during the upcoming lame-duck session.

Under the consensus bill, the Treasury Department will conduct a study of the need for federal assistance for group life insurance. Based on the results of the study, the Treasury Secretary has authority to include group life as a covered insurance line without seeking new legislation from Congress.

In addition, the legislation calls for a further study on the need for a federal backstop covering the broader life insurance industry.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 11, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.