Monday, May 25, 2009

A Practical Approach to Health Insurance reform

When it comes to change on a national level, new ideas and needed reform proposals often come from the states. Maybe that will now happen with health care insurance reform.

On May 18, the Whatcom County Medical Society hosted a presentation by Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who accepted our invitation to speak to us about his innovative and practical plan for health insurance reform in Washington State, known as the Guaranteed Health Benefit Plan. As insurance commissioner, Kreidler has developed a wealth of knowledge, that includes experience running a health insurance company when KPS Health Plans were put into receivership. He has clearly put his experience to good use in the design of this plan.

Commissioner Kreidler’s Guaranteed Health Benefit Plan
would provide health care coverage for all Washington residents up to age 65, by virtue of residency in the state for one year, while it also preserves the individual's freedom of choice to pick the plan they want. Keidler described how it would work:
  • All residents get catastrophic coverage for health care costs exceeding $10,000 a year.
  • Limited preventive care is covered, which includes an annual checkup, immunizations and age-appropriate cancer screenings.
  • Funding comes from a payroll tax, shared by the worker and employer.
  • Consumers and employers can choose additional coverage for other care from any insurance plan serving the state, and costs will be much less, since the roulette wheel of catastrophic cost has been removed.
  • All insurance "customer service" – both catastrophic and routine, is provided by the private insurers.
  • For expenses in excess of $10,000, the insurance company pays at their contracted rates, and deals with the state for the payment to them
  • Individuals with no coverage of any kind are at leas covered for some preventive care, and all "catastrphic" care that exceeds $10,0000.
Commissioner Kreidler's approach is refreshing and very interesting. He builds on the structure we have now, while the plan causes minimal disruption to the existing system, extends coverage to all without mandates, and yet still respects choice in the system. It is a way to get moving on this important issue now. As he noted in his talk, all advanced countries have migrated to their own health care systems by building conservatively on the unique features of their pre-existing systems, and it is unlikely that we will have reform as a "big bang" event.

After his talk, Commissioner Kreidler left to fly to Washington, DC for talks with key legislators there. As the health care debate continues, I think that his is a welcome voice for common sense. and a practical choice to help people quickly!

You can get details about the plan by clicking here.

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