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Industry Groups Ask Obama To Listen

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Health and retirement benefits trade organizations say President-elect Obama should think about what they have to say when he is developing policy proposals that affect their members.

Health groups issuing statements include America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, and the Association of Health Insurance Advisors, Falls Church, Va.

Individual health carriers and the American Benefits Council, Washington, also have come out with statements.

AHIP President Karen Ignagni put out a short message congratulating Obama on his victory.

“Now is the time for health care reform,” Ignagni says.

H. Edward Hanway, chairman of CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia, contends that neither the private sector nor government can expand access to health coverage and lower the cost of care alone.

“A public and private partnership of health care stakeholders–private health plans, federal and state governments, employers, providers and individuals–is critical to expanding access, providing choice and controlling costs,” Hanway says.

“The ideal plan is one that is best able to offer affordable, quality health care for all–universal coverage–while preserving the individual’s right of choice along the way,” Hanway says.

WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis, says the Obama administration should focus on “improving health care quality, controlling health spending and building on the current private-public system.”

“This can be achieved through an increased focus on the development of consensus-based quality measures and expanded use of quality-based payments; enhanced efforts to promote an advanced medical home model for the delivery of care; continued efforts to provide coordinated care and disease management; and expanding viable public and private coverage options and access,” WellPoint says.

AHIA President Robelynn Abadie, whose group is a division of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, says the United States cannot tackle the challenge of bringing uninsured Americans into the system without reducing the high cost of health care for everyone.

AHIA says most proposals fail to address the underlying cost of care.

“Statistics show that mandates for auto insurance have not significantly reduced the number of uninsured or underinsured motorists,” Abadie says. “Government-imposed wage and price controls usually exacerbate the problem. States with guaranteed-issue and community rating … have some the highest individual premiums in the country.”

Risk pools have not worked very well, either, Abadie says.

Preventing chronic disease and educating consumers should be the starting point for reform efforts, Abadie says.

American Benefits Council President James Klein spoke both about health retirement benefits in his statement.

Any health reform efforts should work within the Employee Retirement Income Security Act framework, Klein says.

Over on the retirement side, Obama and Congress must address the new pension funding requirement regulations even before Obama takes office, Klein says.

“Immediate measures that we have outlined in recent weeks must be enacted to prevent accelerated funding requirements–exacerbated by recent economic volatility–from triggering a wave of pension plan freezes and job cuts,” Klein says.

“Longer-term, the new administration and Congress must recognize that encouraging savings represents not only a source or retirement income security, but also boosts investment capital so vital to economic recovery,” Klein says.


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