WASHINGTON–America’s Health Insurance Plans today urged Congress to revise current healthcare reform proposals to focus more on cost controls and medical liability law reform.
AHIP’s comments were in a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
It came as the House Democratic leadership and President Obama continued working to round up the votes to pass the version of healthcare reform legislation approved by the Senate last December.
The next key is a vote, probably Wednesday in the House Rules Committee to clear the bill for floor action.
A vote on the House floor could occur as early as Friday.
AHIP’s letter also promised to begin working immediately with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to develop a template its members can use across the country to provide information on the factors driving premium increases.
At the same time, AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said, “As you request transparency from our members, we urge you also to consider pursuing transparency for hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical and device companies, and other suppliers.”
The letter said health insurers are “particularly concerned” that there are inadequate incentives in the legislation to bring everyone into the system, that new age-rating requirements would drive up costs for younger families, and that the proposed premium tax on health insurers would further drive up costs for consumers in the individual and small group markets.
To combat that, the letter said health insurers recommend broadening and expediting certain provisions of the Senate bill that focus on realigning incentives and promoting innovation.
Specifically, legislation should try to reduce preventable hospital readmissions and hospital-acquired infections; to accelerate the adoption of payment reform and quality improvement incentives; to advance new payment reform models on a system-wide basis; and to improve the value of comparative effectiveness research and the proposed Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
On medical liability, the health insurers proposed a “fresh approach” that combines a safe harbor for following evidence-based medicine and a system to ensure that harmed individuals are compensated adequately.
“As an alternative to the existing litigation system, we recommend an approach that offers protections for providers who follow established best practices and implement safe, accountable care models based on the latest scientific evidence,” the letter said.
The proposals followed through on a commitment made by Ignagni to Sebelius last week to promptly provide input to the administration and Congress on ways that current legislative proposals could be modified in order to win industry support.
Ignagni promised to provide the data as part of a plea to have Congress and the Obama administration “turn away from vilification rather than problem solving” in drafting healthcare reform legislation.
In turn, Sebelius asked that health insurers provide greater transparency as a means of justifying high rate increases, such as the 39% rate hike request recently sought by a California insurer.
In the letter, Ignagni said limiting the amount by which premiums can vary by age can have particularly significant effects for young adults, as moving from a 5:1 to 3:1 rating band…raises rates for adults under age 30 by approximately another 30% to 50% beyond that projected for the population as a whole.