America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) President Karen Ignagni today started a speech about health reform by repeating Winston Churchill’s observation that, “You can always trust the Americans to do the right thing — once they have tried everything else.”
The quote drew laughs from audience members who had gathered for a briefing in Franklin, Tenn., organized by the Nashville Health Care Council.
Ignagni talked about her ideas for changing the implementation of health care reform to address what she believes to be a lopsided focus in the Affordable Care Act on accessibility, to the detriment of cost containment. The Affordable Care Act is the legislative package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
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Ignagni recalled that, after President Obama’s election in 2008, the president noted that health care costs were crushing the economy. “They are still crushing the economy,” Ignagni said, “and unless we as a country can get our hands around that, we will not be able to move into the 21st-century health care system that all of us want to see.
A key sticking point, Ignagni said, is cost containment. “My cost containment is somebody else’s revenue suppression,” she said, citing the inherent difficulty in getting buy-in from stakeholders across the industry when it comes to implementing financially sound health care reform. She talked about a meeting AHIP held in 2006, when it decided to take a strategic role in what the group saw as an inevitable national discussion on health care reform.
“We went into the discussion with the position that all Americans should have access to
health care coverage, that in the individual market people should not be denied based on pre-existing conditions, and that ratings should be done across the board and not by age and or gender,” Ignagni said.
AHIP also said any health care reform package that was going to succeed needed two things.
The first was universal access. In the states that have already attempted their own form of health care reform, having a system in which not everyone participated inevitably led to sharply increased pricing, Ignagni said. This rate shock, in turn, drove healthy participants from the system, which only further exacerbated cost problems.