IN THIS ISSUE:
? What the Election Will Bring in Health Care
? Second Term Focus on AHPs HSAs
? “The future is Republican” – Barone
? Bush is Better for Canada – Corcoran
? Individual Market “Daunting” in Missouri?
? HSAs to Grow “Exponentially” – Lieber
? HSAs Hot in Connecticut
? Getting a Good Deal in Florida
? Playing Down Expectations for DirigoChoice in Maine
What the Election Will Bring in Health Care
The election is over and a lot of press is devoted to anticipating what the second term and a new Congress will bring. Kent Hoover writes in many “Business Journals” that a new Bush term “bodes well for health care reforms sought by small businesses.” First among these are association health plans that would be exempt “from state regulation and coverage mandates.” Mr. Hoover says the legislation has stalled in the Senate, but with a larger majority, “Senate Republican leaders plan to take up legislation in the first 90 days of the next Congress that addresses the growing numbers of Americans without health insurance.” Also on the agenda is “continued support of health savings accounts,” according to the article.
SOURCE: The article appeared in a dozen or so local business journals, including:
Second Term Focus on AHPs HSAs
The “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” also looked ahead at the new term writing, “In an effort to hold down health care costs, Bush will seek to make the system more responsive to market pressure.” It adds, “He will focus on consumer-driven health programs [and] may offer tax credits for low-income people to establish health savings accounts.” It also mentions association health plans and prescription drug benefits for people on Medicare.
SOURCE: http://www.ajc.com/ The article ran on Sunday November 11, 2004. Registration is required.
“The future is Republican” — Barone
Crossing the pond, Michael Barone has an article in the London “Sunday Times” headlined “The future is Republican.” He argues that four years ago American was a 49 – 49 nation but today it is a 51 – 48 country. He ticks through Bush’s improving support among different constituencies and notes that voters self-identify themselves as 37% Democrat and 37% Republican now, when four years ago it was 39% Democrat to 35% Republican. Mr. Barone says this election is one of generational realignment much like McKinley’s reelection in 1900 or Roosevelt’s in 1936. Driving this change is that “Bush has policies which, in my judgment, can work for his party in post-industrial America just as McKinley and [Teddy] Roosevelt had policies that worked for Republicans in industrial America … The common thread in all these proposals is more freedom and accountability for the individual, less reliance on government and large organisations [sic] that may not deliver on their promises.”
Bush is Better for Canada — Corcoran
Writing in Canada’s “National Post,” Terence Corcoran argues that Bush will be better for Canada than Kerry. He says he is puzzled that so many Canadians preferred Kerry, and says “In Congress alone, the overthrow of Senate leader Tom Daschle – strident farm protectionist and anti-Canadian beef vigilante – lifts a major obstacle to Canadian interests.” He specifies “five reasons why a Bush presidency will be good for Canada: “1. Bush’s tax cutting should “stimulate similar initiatives in Canada.” 2. Rejection of the Kyoto Protocol which “Canada officially backs [while] implementing it is known to be hopeless.” 3. HSAs – “a major innovation that could shake up health policy on both sides of the border.” 4. “Bush’s trade record, while far from perfect, will be preferable to the Kerry program, which came loaded with special interest associations.” 5. Bush’s energy policies which are “less grandiose and less economically intrusive.” He concludes, “Canadians might have liked Kerry’s style and fuzzy liberalish policy agenda. But in reality he promised little that would have benefited Canadians and the Canadian economy.”
Individual Market “Daunting” in Missouri?
The “Kansas City Star” featured an article by Julius Karash about “Going it Alone” in health insurance. This is another one of those articles in which the conclusions seem contradicted by the evidence contained within the article. The subhead is, “Those without group health coverage can find insurance market daunting.” It quotes an insurance department spokesman as saying, “Looking for an individual plan is the path of last resort,” and Consumers Union’s Trudy Lieberman as saying, “The individual insurance market is basically a minefield.” The insurance department guy says non-group plans cost 40% more than group plans, and Ms. Lieberman says they often don’t have coverage for drugs, maternity or mental health. Horrors! But the article also says individual enrollment in Missouri has grown from 135,000 in 2002 to 178,000 in 2003. And it cites Karen Allen, who bought an individual policy from Blue Cross that includes Rx coverage for $253/mo. The article adds, “Many applicants are single mothers who have group coverage for themselves but not their children.” It gives as an example Sage Ditto who is covered through her employer but has bought individual coverage for her 3-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. She says, “My gosh, my son would have been $155 a month [on her group plan], but now I’m only paying $55 a month, for better coverage for him. What he has now includes things he couldn’t get on the group plan, like preventive dental care and better prescription card coverage.” Her daughter costs $80/month, compared to $150/month on her group plan.
HSAs to Grow “Exponentially” — Lieber
“SFGate” reprinted an article by Ron Lieber of “The Wall Street Journal” in which he says, “Regardless of presidential politics, HSAs and similar vehicles are likely to become exponentially more common in coming years.” He adds, “The notion is clearly enticing. Which is why it will undoubtedly be frustrating – and confusing – when the vast majority of us get our open-enrollment packages during the next few weeks and find that our employers haven’t allowed us to sign up for one.” He explains that most large employers started shopping for 2005 benefits back in mid-2004 – before the regulations were finalized, so will not make them available until 2006. But he also says employers are concerned about “how people with chronic conditions like diabetes would fare.” Many employers would like to enhance benefits for those populations. While they cannot do it with HSAs, they can with HRAs. Destiny’s Ryan Levin says, “Many of our clients are coming to us initially for HSAs and realizing that they can get something similar but better from HRAs.” But HRA or HSA, the article encourages workers to “lobby your human-resources department with an e-mail or two” to encourage them to add a consumer driven plan.
HSAs Hot in Connecticut
The New Britain “Herald Press” in Connecticut is gung-ho about HSAs. Scott Whipple writes that six months ago Stephen Glick, a local broker, would get 2% – 3% of an audience saying they knew about HSAs, but now it is 85%. The article quotes a number of local Chamber executives as saying they are excited about the new product. Local Chamber president William Millerick says educating accountants is key to acceptance. “They’re first line, they advise people. If accountants understand HSAs, they’ll recommend them to their clients.”
Getting a Good Deal in Florida
And in Daytona Beach, Florida, “Ann Concannon says she’s getting a good deal,” according to the “News-Journal.” This middle-aged real estate agent is paying $168/month for a $2,600 deductible policy with Golden Rule and puts $216/month into her HSA. Tom Evers, her insurance agent, says, “This is part of the ‘ownership society’ the government is trying to promote.” Other carriers selling HSAs in the local market include Aetna and Florida Health Care Plans. But the article by Thomas Brown says, “So far, most of the action has been at the individual level. Most enrollees are either self-employed, early retirees or people like Concannon, who had to arrange her own health insurance after moving to a company that didn’t offer benefits.”
Playing Down Expectations for DirigoChoice in Maine
Finally, the “Portland Press Herald” ran a two-part series by Josie Huang that updates the problems in the market in Maine and what DirigoChoice is trying to do about it. So far, almost all the enrollment is coming from self-employed Mainers and very few from “the program’s target customers: firms with under 50 employees.” The articles explain in detail the complex web of subsidies and mandates that make up Governor Baldacci’s effort to lower costs and raise the level of insurance in Maine. Supporters are already lowering their expectations, from the initial goal of covering 31,000 people by the end of the first year to a more modest 10,000. Seems like a lot of fuss to cover 10,000 people. One has to wonder why they didn’t just give them the money being spent on administering a vastly complex program and let them buy their own coverage.
SOURCE: http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/news/state/041108dirigo.shtml. This will get you to the second article which includes a link to the first one.
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