Sen. Barack Obama has attacked health insurers on the campaign trail but come up with a health finance reform proposal that bears some resemblance to the one developed by America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington.
Obama, the junior senator from Illinois who is campaigning for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, unveiled his proposal, “Barack Obama’s Plan for a Healthy America,” during a speech in Iowa City, Iowa.
Unlike AHIP, however, Obama says high health insurance costs are due partly to a lack of competition in many health insurance markets.
“The insurance business today is dominated by a small group of large companies that has been gobbling up their rivals,” Obama says in a written version of the speech. “In recent years, for-profit companies have bought up not-for-profit insurers around the country…There have been over 400 health care mergers in the last 10 years, and just two companies dominate a full third of the national market.”
Obama has proposed preventing “companies from abusing their monopoly power through unjustified price increases.”
He also has proposed requiring most employers to provide health coverage or contribute to the cost of running a national plan, and has recommended setting up a National Health Insurance Exchange for individual health coverage that might compete head-to-head with websites and traditional insurance agencies that sell coverage to individuals. Insurers selling through the exchange would “have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums that will not depend upon health status,” Obama says.
But he echoed AHIP by calling for rapid adoption of electronic health records and other health information technology systems; improved care management programs; use of quality-based physician compensation programs; creation of a new organization that would evaluate the effectiveness of drugs, devices and procedures; expansion of public insurance programs for low-income Americans; and continued reliance on private insurers and group health plans to supply for health coverage for most U.S. residents.