Available and affordable health care surfaced as the number one concern among regulators and legislators organizing their “to do” list for 2007. State insurance commissioners in Arkansas, New Hampshire and West Virginia interviewed by National Underwriter, as well as a state legislator in Rhode Island and member of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, all put expanding health care coverage at the top of their efforts in the coming year.
“Like many other states, we are challenged by the number of uninsured for health coverage,” said Jane Cline, West Virginia commissioner, explaining why it will be a priority in 2007. Affordability issues continue to be a challenge, she added. Cline was elected NAIC secretary-treasurer during the winter meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
There are several “serious issues” that Arkansas is addressing, said Julie Benafield Bowman, Arkansas commissioner. Among the health issues on the department’s radar, said Benafield Bowman, are the Medicare Part “D” prescription drug program and, more generally, access to health insurance for Arkansas consumers.
State Rep. Brian Kennedy, D-38th District, R.I., said that as a legislator one of the biggest issues both in his state and at NCOIL is the availability of health insurance. Kennedy says his state is watching to see how a new plan in Massachusetts designed to expand health care coverage will work. It is important to develop an innovative new approach, said Kennedy, because “the whole issue of health insurance is such a burden on our constituents and on the insurance industry.”
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If the Massachusetts plan proves viable and can be rolled out in other states, Rhode Island and NCOIL will look at it, he added.
NCOIL Executive Director Susan Nolan said that among the issues NCOIL would be tracking in 2007 are life insurance contracts that are sold solely for the purpose of resale at a later point. NCOIL will be looking at the NAIC Viatical Settlement Model Act as well as considering whether it should develop its own model, according to Nolan.
Another issue NCOIL will be looking at in the coming year, said Nolan, is transparency between doctors and providers such as HMOs and whether an agreement between a doctor and an HMO should be disclosed to a third party. How equity-indexed annuities should be regulated will also be discussed, Nolan said.
New NAIC President Walter Bell said in a statement that he would advance efforts to enhance regulatory modernization and provide national uniformity through programs such as SERFF, the NAIC’s electronic rate and form filing system, and the Interstate Compact Commission.