Consumer choice will become a driving force in the health insurance market over the next few years, a White House advisor and members of Congress said last week, provided lawmakers act to give consumers more choice and the tools they need to become knowledgeable about their coverage.
The industry has been a proponent of Health Savings Accounts, which would allow consumers to use a special savings account for their health care along with a high deductible plan. “The president believes people should own their coverage,” said Doug Badger, a senior advisor to President Bush, adding that the president signed himself up for an HSA in 2004.
Speaking at the National Association of Health Underwriters Capital Conference here, Badger said that allowing consumers to establish HSAs and encouraging their use would help to control the rapidly increasing costs of health care. “The president believes the best way to make health care more affordable is consumer choice,” he said.
Other speakers at the conference also supported the goal of consumer choice as a means of making the health care system more affordable and efficient. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., who chairs the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee, noted that increasing costs of the system could make the expense of technological advances prohibitive. “We wont be able to afford the advances weve made, if the system isnt reformed,” she said, adding that HSAs are a “first step” on the reform track.
Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., also spoke of the need for consumer choice, especially in comparison to more socialized plans. “The answer isnt a single payer,” he said. “The answer is consumer-driven, market-based health care.”
Although HSAs are still relatively new, Badger said the White House believes they will play an important role in the industry. “We think Health Savings Accounts are going to revolutionize the market,” he said, adding there has been a “real shift in the market,” since the accounts debuted last year and that the administration expects to see significant growth for HSAs in the small group market and among large employers over the next two to three years.