GOP Health Agenda Is Much To Industrys Liking
Republican Senate leaders last week announced their top priorities for the new Congress, including major health insurance initiatives in line with what the industry has been seeking.
Incoming Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., alongside Majority Leader William Frist, R-Tenn., announced at a press conference a major health reform initiative designed to reduce the costs and increase the efficiency of the health care system, improve access to health care, and reform the medical liability laws. The health care initiative was one of a “top 10″ list of priorities announced by the Republicans, which also included class-action tort reform.
“Rising health care costs and access to affordable health insurance are among the biggest worries Americans face today,” said Enzi. “At the heart of the legislation Sen. Frist and I will introduce will be proposals developed last year by the Senate Republican Task Force on Health Care Costs and the Uninsured as well as many of President Bushs health care reforms.”
Although the specific language of the measure, known as S. 4, the “Healthy America Act of 2005,” has not been drafted, an outline provided by the Republicans listed its specific aims. One provision will seek to expand the availability of health savings accounts through an above-the-line tax deduction for the purchase of high-deductible health plans, and providing additional support for lower income people and college students. Tax deductions also would be created for the purchase of long term care insurance, and family caregivers would be offered increased support. Additionally, the bill would allow those starting a business to cover the costs of health insurance as business expenses under the Assets for Independence Act.
Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of Americas Health Insurance Plans, Washington, said the priorities laid out in the bill are in line with those of health insurers.
“Were seeing a broad and deep health care agenda,” she said. “A number of the priorities in the bill resonate closely with our industry.”
The focus on medical liability tort reform is a major factor for the AHIP, she said, and the group is “working to generate more support in the Senate,” where previous tort reform efforts have fallen off-track. Ignagni said she expects the swift movement of a similar Republican priority, the “class-action fairness” legislation, should improve the chances for passage of a medical liability bill. “Class action moving forward should improve the environment,” she said.