Donnelly Urges Market Stability on Health Care; Association Plans in the Offing?

Senator Joe Donnelly is urging the Trump administration to make a public commitment to continue cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which lower consumers’ deductibles and co-pays.

Early in the week, Donnelly continued his push for stability in the insurance markets in a letter to Hoosier Seema Verma – the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – who he partnered with to help establish Indiana’s bipartisan Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) 2.0 program through the Affordable Care Act. Donnelly’s letter comes as President Trump has declined to commit to continue making CSR payments. Donnelly says if these aren’t maintained, it could cause people to pay at least 15-20% more for health care.

In the letter to Verma, Donnelly wrote: “…It is our job to protect American families from unnecessary increases in the cost of health care, particularly those within our control. That is why I am very concerned by recent comments and actions made by the administration demonstrating a willingness and desire to undermine the health care system, even at the expense of the health and economic security of millions of Americans. These efforts to create uncertainty are harming working people and are already having a detrimental effect in Indiana.

“As we work to improve our health care system, we must first do no harm … The administration has the ability to help provide market stability today, and I respectfully request that the administration make a strong public commitment to continuing the CSR payments so that Congress can work together in a bipartisan fashion in an effort to reduce costs, expand access and strengthen the American health care system.”

Additionally, Donnelly said he’s recently heard from several insurance companies which provide coverage to Hoosiers – including two that have recently left the market – that cited lack of certainty, particularly as it relates to the CSR payments, as a key reason for increasing prices or leaving the market.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this week that CSR payments were, at this point, bailing out a failed law. She also said no final decision had been made by the President on continuing them.

Read Donnelly’s full letter to Verma.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is making a case to President Trump to use his executive authority to permit associations and organizations to offer group health insurance plans. Paul says this could impact tens of millions currently in the individual marketplace. The White House has yet to comment on the possibility. This action would be very helpful to Indiana Chamber members and we have previously discussed this positive policy proposal with members of the Indiana delegation.

See, This Health Care Reform Thing is Difficult

What do you get when you place a physician, hospital CEO and representatives of the insurance industry and business community in one room? In this case, a most interesting roundtable discussion on health care reform for our BizVoice magazine.

A taste of some of the comments that didn’t make the final cut:

Dr. Edward Langston, based in Lafayette, is immediate past chair of the board of trustees of the American Medical Association. He says it is "sobering" to sit down with physicians who are paying $250,000 a year in liability insurance.

In regard to quality, he states, "We realize we need to take a hard look at how we do our measures. Where there’s been a great mistrust on the physician side is the lack of transparencies and how you determine your quality standards." He says the National Quality Forum can be the vetting organization for performance measures. "If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve the quality. What we’re trying to do is find the right way to measure it. But that’s just the first step. The next one is taking those measures and how can we adapt them to quality outcomes."

Regarding the Healthy Indiana Plan, Ice Miller public affairs specialist Anne Doran notes it is a "start, but by no means the end all be all." The public private partnership is crucial, but "if we had a lot more money, it would be a lot more successful."

Finally, Goshen Health System president and CEO James Dague doesn’t argue that the partnership is a nice element. "I agree it is a start; sometimes I wish the start would be more complete because we hear too many people touting it as if we’ve really done something. I almost wish we hadn’t done it because it’s not really effective."

And that is what’s not in the story. Read the full article.

Letters to Our Leaders: Focus on Wellness and Health Care Access

There are a lot of very smart people around the country trying to figure out solutions to a health care system that simply doesn’t work as well as it should. Unfortunately, they’re not having a lot of success — or maybe the challenge is just so big that we must be patient (no pun intended).

Who pays what to which provider depends on too many outside circumstances. The lack of health insurance for millions negatively impacts the entire system. Too much time and money is spent treating symptoms, not preventing the health problems in the first place. With the federal government financing nearly 70% of the country’s spending on health care, many decisions are out of the state’s control.

What can be done is focus on wellness. In Indiana, we eat too much, smoke too much and don’t exercise enough. Yes, part of the solution is individual responsibility. But businesses can play a critical role through wellness programs, health risk assessments and more. What can also be done is increase access to insurance and the preventative care that goes along with it. Reducing emergency room trips for common procedures will help bring some sanity to the financial side of the equation.

The Healthy Indiana Plan has proven to be a good start on both fronts. Let’s build on that, doing what we can at the state (and business) level. If not, health care expenditures will overwhelm our economy and our lives.

The latest Letters to Our Leaders installment offers the details. Read the letter (and others in the series); watch the one-minute video below; offer your comments.


Indiana’s Anthem Plan for Uninsured Adults

Does the collective health care predicament have you feeling as uneasy as Britney Spears at a Mother of the Year Award presentation? If so, you might note that uninsured adult Hoosiers may qualify for a low-cost option sponsored by the state. Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) is available to adults ages 19-64 who do not have access to other health coverage, earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level and have not had insurance for at least six months.

Coverage is provided by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and sponsored by the state. Also noteworthy is that individual contributions are based on a percentage of gross family income and employers who do not offer health coverage can pay up to one half of an employee’s required contribution.

For more information about HIP, call (877) GET-HIP-9.