Cost And Access Issues Will Push 2004 Health Insurance Agenda
After the difficult battle over Medicare reform in 2003, the health insurance industry expects to see more congressional debate on private insurance in the upcoming legislative session.
“We expect to be working a lot on cost and access issues,” says Mohit Ghose, a spokesman for the Washington-based AAHP-HIAA, the association formed by the merger of the American Association of Health Plans and Health Insurance Association of America.
Ghose says AAHP-HIAA will be engaged both on Capitol Hill and in the political campaigns on issues aimed at access to health care.
For example, Ghose says, AAHP-HIAA hopes to see support for a targeted tax credit that will make it easier for people, particularly the working uninsured, to purchase health insurance.
AAHP-HIAA also would like to see expansion of Health Savings Accounts, Ghose says, the savings vehicles created by the Medicare reform bill.
HSAs allow individuals to place up to $1,000 annually, or $2,000 for couples, into a health savings account. Money put into the account is tax-deductible, the interest is accumulated tax-free, and the money can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses.
But Greg Scandlen, a health care policy expert with the Galen Institute, Alexandria, Va., says he believes the issue with HSAs is how quickly they evolve in the marketplace.
He says he does not see a lot happening in the employer market immediately, due to the time it takes for employers to change health plans. Also, he says, it will take about 6 months for product development and for the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a regulation on HSAs.
Scandlen says he expects a lot of activity in the individual market, probably by the middle of 2004.
As far as increasing access, Scandlen says, the issue, in general, is how far the White House will go. He says he expects the administration to propose some type of expanded tax credit for displaced workers, but the extent is unclear.
In addition to access, Ghose says, it is important for Congress to address the factors driving up health care costs, such as the tort system.
AAHP-HIAA, he said, hopes to see class-action reform move early in the year and also hopes for action on medical liability reform.