Q: What challenges do you anticipate your particular state running into with upcoming health care reform provisions?
Mike Kreidler: The challenge is to make a complex and critically important law work. Congress and the president crafted the law, but implementation is falling largely to state insurance regulators. The good news is that we’re working closely together – through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners – and are trying to provide consistency and uniformity. As a longtime insurance regulator and a former health care provider, I feel strongly that the nation’s health care system was unsustainable. The specifics of health care reform may require changes and tweaking, but reform itself, I believe, was inevitable.
Q: For producers licensed to sell health insurance in your state, what developments might they look out for in the short term?
MK: Producers are a critical part of the nation’s health care infrastructure, and the public is clearly hungry for help navigating their health insurance options. They want a variety of reliable, trustworthy resources to help them – and producers have long filled that role. I can’t predict how the future will take shape, but I do have some suggestions and observations.
- First, be engaged. Learn how the health exchanges will work. Remain a trusted resource.
- Secondly, know that not everything will change. I believe that we will still have a substantial large group market that will likely continue to function as it does today.
- Finally, I expect there to be a long transition period, Definitions need to be created, rules need to be developed, and there’s a key role for the industry to play in that process.
Q: What should producers concentrate on the most over the next 10 or so years with regard to health care reform’s affects in Washington?
MK: Some of the changes encompassed in federal health reform were launched earlier at the state level here. Among them:
- “Group of one” coverage allowing single-person businesses to qualify for small-group coverage. Under federal health reform, this change won’t take effect until 2014; in Washington it’s the law now.
- We also had a state high-risk pool prior to the federal law.
- We allowed parents to keep dependent children on the family’s coverage until age 25 at a time when many other states didn’t. Federal reform increases that another year, until a person’s 26th birthday.
And so far, so good. All these things have been critical lifelines and have helped keep people covered.
Q: Is your state doing anything differently or preparing in any special way for health care reform?