The U.S. health insurance industry has a long agenda that it wishes the Bush administration and Congress to deal with.
In addition, sweeping changes in federal health care rules are being made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in preparation for adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare to 2006, and some of those changes affect insurers. Other regulatory issues for the industry are making health savings accounts more flexible and “new products to support consumer choice.”
On the legislative front, legislation to make health care more affordable is an industry priority, as is tort reform that the Bush administration also wants Congress to deal with quickly. The industry also will keep pushing for tax-law changes to make long term care insurance more attractive to consumers.
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While it appears that Medigap insurance programs for prescription drugs will cease when the new Medicare prescription drug program goes into effect in 2006, the industry is optimistic the rest of its Medigap offerings will be sustained.
Time pressures also are involved. As Janet Trautwein of the National Association of Health Insurers puts it, “I think 2005 will be a very busy year.” She says the industry expects the 2006 off-year election to be as busy as the 2004 Presidential one. “That means anything substantive will be done in 2005.”
Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of Americas Health Insurance Plans, says the public and the industry want restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits and affordable health care for the uninsured.
“Congress also is going to be monitoring HSAs to see what else it needs to do to encourage use of these kinds of products,” Ignagni says.
On the regulatory front, Ignagni and other industry officials are asking the Treasury Department for greater flexibility in using health savings accounts, for example, in rolling unused balances over from one year to the next, and in incentives to promote use of LTC products.