Bush Address Gets High Marks From Industry On Health Initiatives

By

Washington

President Bush is drawing strong praise from the health insurance industry for his State of the Union message endorsing market-based initiatives to increase access and reduce costs, with one exception.

The Presidents continued support for association health plans (AHPs) is drawing concern from many in the industry.

Overall, Bush received high marks from industry representatives for devoting a portion of his State of the Union message to health care issues and for expressing his opposition to a government-run system.

Michael L. Kerley, executive vice president of the Association of Health Insurance Agents, Falls Church, Va., says AHIA welcomes the Presidents statements on a government-run system.

“AHIA has long supported the Presidents push for helping to cover the uninsured through policy initiatives such as the newly minded Health Savings Accounts,” Kerley says. “More Americans will be better served through these proposed policies than through dismantling the system that is considered the finest in the world.”

Karen Ignagni, president of AAHP-HIAA says health insurers couldnt agree more with the President that promoting affordability and empowering consumers are top health care priorities for 2004.

“We also agree with this administration, and with many members of Congress, that the private sector must be an integral partner in this effort,” Ignagni adds.

Janet Trautwein, vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., says NAHU is pleased to see the strong commitment from the President for medical liability reform.

Runaway lawsuits, she says, have forced physicians to leave their practices in many locations and are a major factor in increasing the cost of care due to defensive medicine.

However, the President drew criticism for his support of AHPs, which would allow small businesses to band together to offer health insurance exempt from state insurance regulation.

Kerley says that AHIA, while working hard to support the President on issues like tax-free insurance premiums for HSAs and refundable tax credits for individuals and families, will work just as hard against AHPs.

“AHIA has grave concerns that current AHP legislation would lead to market segmentation, consumer fraud and insolvency,” he says.

Some health care advocacy groups are criticizing the Presidents overall health care agenda.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Washington-based Families USA, says only the wealthiest and healthiest people will receive health care from the tax credit proposal.

“When the proposed tax credits lure the wealthiest and healthiest into high-deductible health plans, they will leave only the sicker and poorer in traditional insurance,” Pollack says. “As a result, premiums for people who remain in traditional insurance, those who need health care the most, are likely to soar.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 23, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.