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Industry Response to Obama Speech

September 11th, 2009 – President Obama’s speech to Congress on Health Reform on September 9th energized his fellow Democrats, but polarized some Republicans.  His speech highlighted “must have” legislation and also indicated some flexibility on the controversial government run health care program.

Some of the key points of President Obama’s speech included guarantee issue health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions, individual mandates for health insurance and a few consumer protection insurance mandates that are already provided for under Colorado law.   There would no longer be lifetime maximum benefits on health insurance policies.  President Obama wants health insurance tax credits for small businesses and for qualified uninsured individuals and a requirement that most larger employers provide health coverage; and medical malpractice reforms.

How this would all be paid for remains the biggest question.  President Obama said it could be paid for without adding to the budget or the deficit with gains in efficiency and reduction in fraud and corruption in Medicare.   I certainly hope the President, Congress and the Senate will have the political courage to go toe to toe with for-profit hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry, as their costs are what drive health insurance premiums up year after year.

Here is a response to President Obama’s speech from one of the more respected insurance industry trade groups:

The National Association of HealthUnderwriters agrees with many of the reform ideas that President Obama presented last night to the joint session of Congress,” NAHU Chief Executive Janet Trautwein says. “Reigning in health care costs so that more Americans can afford health insurance needs to be the key driver of any comprehensive health care reform package.

“NAHU strongly supports President Obama’s proposal to eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions and provide tax subsidies for low-income individuals and small business owners who cannot afford to offer health insurance to their employees. These market-driven sensible reforms will go a long way in controlling costs and improving access to the health care system.

“NAHU is also encouraged by President Obama’s remarks on the need for meaningful medical malpractice reform. The Department of Human Services estimated that medical liability and defensive medicine reforms alone could save the health care system up to $500 billion dollars.

“While we continue to disagree about the need for a government-run public plan, NAHU was very heartened by the president’s clear willingness to compromise on this issue. A public option may seem like a clever way to expand insurance coverage and lower costs, but our existing public options prove that another government-run health plan will only raise the cost of private insurance and crowd out private alternatives. The pattern of systematically underpaying doctors and hospitals through the Medicare and Medicaid programs have raised the average family’s premiums by $1,800 a year and a public option will only exacerbate this problem — and make health insurance more expensive.

“Americans want our elected officials to work in a bipartisan fashion to forge real solutions to reduce costs, improve quality and expand access and choice. Most Americans like their private health insurance coverage and want health reform to strengthen and build upon what is working, and address those areas where there are shortcomings.

“We look forward to our continued work with the administration, members of Congress and stakeholders to bring the real-world consumer perspective to this debate and share our experience to help enact sensible, bipartition health care reform because insuring America is in everyone’s best interest.”

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