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AHIP CEO suggests lower tier of health insurance

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It may be that the millions of Americans who so far have not signed up for health insurance through the public exchanges may not want the “essential package” that even basic plans must include by law.

That’s the view of Karen Ignagni, CEO of American’s Health Insurance Plans, as expressed to C-SPAN. If that’s the case, she said, then it’s time to create a new, lower-tier insurance option for those still going without insurance.

“I would create a lower tier, so that people could gradually get into the program, so they could be part of the risk pool, so we don’t hold the healthier people outside,” Ignagni said. “What I would do is give people more choices.”

Ignagni said the need for insurance packages to include such “essential health benefits” as hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, pediatric care and prescription drugs may not appeal to those who may not need such services or simply can’t afford them. She suggest that these basic package elements represent “a bridge too far” for some and creates a pool of people who simply won’t pay for insurance.

Ignagni’s new tier would lie below the four existing tiers: platinum, gold, silver and bronze.

Readers and listeners to her video interview quickly commented on the C-SPAN site, expressing the range of predictable responses to her proposal. Few rallied to her support.

Several banged the gong for a single-payer system to take insurance out of the hands of carriers. Others suggested her proposal was yet one more way “to protect the outrageous profits of the private insurance industry.” And “Erin” offered this analysis:

“Perhaps we should take Ms. Ignagni’s advice and offer a lower tier of insurance on the exchanges. In keeping with the precious metal scheme we could call it “pyrite” or fool’s gold. Insurers will collect premiums but consumers will be underinsured and stuck with high deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance. Benefits, will, of course be extremely limited. Networks of licensed professionals will be inadequate and wait times high. But who cares?

“Quackery will be a covered benefit so long as witch doctors agree to volume discounts with insurers. It’s almost too perfect. Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?”

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