The health insurance industry is limiting its legislative objectives for 2008 and anticipating a lengthy campaign season as it looks forward to a new president in 2009.
In general, surveys indicate that the cost of health care will decline for the 5th straight year, with prescription drug costs continuing to decline “dramatically,” while Standard & Poor’s outlook for the U.S. managed care industry foresees slower growth, eroding margins, “politics and yet more politics.”
At the same time, while S&P believes that a new president in 2009 will make an effort to create a public/private partnership aimed at developing universal health care, its analysts warn that the U.S. government has shown itself to be a fickle partner.
“No one knows what, or even if, universal coverage will happen under the next president, but the industry seems prepared to support some form of long-term partnership with the government despite the inherent pricing and regulatory risks,” S&P said in its outlook for 2008.
The 2008 Segal health plan cost trend survey forecasts continued declines in trends next year, marking the 5th consecutive year of declining medical trends. And, although a growing number of health plans project single-digit trends for 2008, health plan costs trends are still significantly above general inflation, the survey says.
In terms of legislation, the National Association of Health Underwriters says it is limiting its legislative objectives for 2008 because of the anticipated short legislative calendar.
At the same time, officials of America’s Health Insurance Plans say they will continue their focus on bills relating to improving access to coverage, like the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan and other Medicare issues that may arise.
It also cited its new initiative for “sweeping reforms in the individual market,” including its decision to work closely with states on an external review of rescissions, which involve refusal of coverage based on misstatements in applications.
Mohit Ghose, an AHIP spokesman, said the trade group will also “continue to take its positive message on Medicare Advantage to Capitol Hill,” citing the fact the program now has 9 million beneficiaries “who have better benefits and lower out-of-pocket costs” through the program.
Given the very small window, as stated by John Greene, NAHU’s vice president for congressional affairs, NAHU sees an opportunity to enact legislation allowing long-term-care products to be sold through cafeteria plans.
Greene also sees bipartisan support developing for S. 1753, wellness legislation introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
He noted that a strong effort was made to pass legislation dealing with genetic discrimination this year, but the effort failed, and the bill “needs further work.”
AHIP’s Ghose said the trade group will continue to lobby strongly for that legislation. “We continue to believe that people should rest assured that they will not be discriminated against on the basis of their genetic information.”
At the same time, “the healthcare industry must be ensured that the developing medical science and the appropriate uses of genetic information to improve the quality of care are not hampered,” he said.