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Trautwein Sketches NAHU Plan For Health Care Reform

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Michael Moore, producer of the new film, “Sicko,” showed up on the State Capitol steps, here, June 24, to speak out for a single-payer health care system and Janet Trautwein is not so sure the timing was a coincidence.

“The last time I looked, I didn’t see Denver on his schedule,” said Trautwein, executive vice president and CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters. Trautwein was addressing NAHU’s annual meeting, which began here on the same day Moore gave his speech H. The film maker had been making a number of public appearances around the U.S. on behalf of his documentary, which advocates government-run health care.

Because of advocates of single-payer systems like Moore, NAHU has a lot on its hands, said Trautwein.

“If we’re not careful, we could be the frog boiling in the pot,” she said.

NAHU’s answer is to advance its own set of ideas for affordable health care reform. Called the Healthy Access Plan, the proposal looks at opportunities for what Trautwein called “responsible change.”

“We have to do first things first, and the underlying problem is the cost of health care,” she said.

Healthy Access would tackle that problem by urging employers and governments to “get serious about wellness and disease management,” she said. Its specific proposals include providing incentives to employees for adopting healthy lifestyle changes and even making it mandatory for government health plans to include wellness programs.

In addition, the NAHU program seeks to cut down on waste. Among other ideas, it proposes the government help develop compatible electronic record-keeping systems so that hospitals, doctors and other providers could exchange patient information online, Trautwein noted.

Healthy Access also proposes limits on medical lawsuits including restrictions on punitive damages and attorney fees. Trautwein argued “frivolous” lawsuits caused medical practitioners to offer “defensive care”–her term for unnecessary care provided as protection against patients taking them to court.

“There can be such a thing as too much care,” she asserted.

Another Health Access idea is to change Medicare and Medicaid payments by legislation to require the government to pay providers the same rates commercial carriers pay. Healthy Access also called for public health insurance to automatically enroll low-income individuals who seek health care, instead of shifting their uncompensated expenses to providers, she noted.

Other plans advocated by Healthy Access:

–Encourage the growth of consumer-directed health insurance products.

–Increase consumer awareness of actual health care costs.

–Require states to provide high-risk health insurance pools to assure that individuals cannot be excluded from buying health care insurance.

–Extend the same tax breaks to individuals and the self-employed that corporations enjoy when buying health insurance.

Trautwein said NAHU would back Healthy Access by continuing to offer training and certification for agents and brokers to assure the public has access to qualified guidance.

“Over the coming months, you will see expanded communications from us to the public about the importance of agents and brokers,” Trautwein said.

Agents and brokers also had a role to play in enlightening the public, she concluded. “Be sure you have all the education you need,” she said. “Share the facts with your clients, so they know what the truth is.”


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