WASHINGTON BUREAU — Insurance groups are continuing to warn that implementing H.R. 3590, the Senate health bill, as written would drive up private market health care costs significantly.
The groups are voicing those concerns as the Senate prepares for a series of procedural votes on H.R. 3590 scheduled for today and a vote on passage of the bill scheduled to start sometime after 8 a.m. Thursday.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bill is set to come up at that unusually early hour to give senators time to get home for Christmas, congressional staffers say.
“The finish line is in sight,” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Tuesday. “We’re not the first to attempt such reforms, but we will be the first to succeed.”
PPACA bill supporters already are preparing to start reconciling the vastly different House and Senate versions of the health bill early next year.
Officials at Washington Analysis, Washington, which advises institutional investors, say that, given the difficulty Democrats have had with getting the 60 votes needed to pass a health in the Senate, it is likely that the final product will resemble H.R. 3590.
Janet Trautwein, chief executive officer of the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., says the Senate health bill “contains many provisions that will drive up private health insurance costs significantly for millions of Americans families and businesses and disrupt the quality coverage on which millions of Americans rely.”
Minimum loss ratio requirements added to the legislation last week “will significantly and negatively impact coverage choice and affordability,” Trautwein says.
Although NAHU’s members “agree with the goal of providing consumers with more value for health care dollars spent, the 80%-85% minimum loss ratios required for the individual and group markets in this bill far exceed any similar state-level requirements,” Trautwein says.
The requirement does not take into account the need to address the underlying drivers of health care costs, Trautwein says.
The section of the Senate health bill that would require most individuals to own health insurance, is unworkable, Trautwein adds.
“If the individual mandate is not effective or enforceable, people could wait to buy coverage until they get sick, causing premiums to skyrocket significantly for everyone,” Trautwein says.
NAHU does like a section of the Senate bill that would ensure that licensed health insurance agents would have a role in the proposed state insurance exchanges, Trautwein says.
But “we would like to see these provisions expanded and clarified to ensure that all policies provided through the exchanges be available for purchase through an agent or broker,” Trautwein says.
The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, Washington, also will be seeking to clarify the producer access language, CIAB officials say.