Posted on 12 Jun 2009
The Big "I" has publically denounced a bill titled the Affordable Health Choices Act as introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
There is no doubt that drastic steps are needed to reform the problems in the health care system and to lower costs, but the solution must be to fix the problems permanently without displacing the private market or adding to an already ballooning federal budget deficit. The Big “I” supports efforts to provide universal health care coverage and to lower health insurance costs across the board; however, the current form of this bill is not the solution.
While briefly noted in the bill without specific details, Kennedy has expressed his strong support for including a Medicare-like public plan and a "pay or play" employer mandate in the final bill. The Big "I" opposes any effort to implement a public plan and an unreasonable employer mandate. A public plan would be unfairly matched against private plans and according to a 2009 study by the Lewin Group, if the public plan’s reimbursement rates are similar to Medicare, an estimated 119 million people will shift from private insurance to the public plan. Within years, private insurers could be driven out of business and a “single payer system” will evolve. Moreover, an improperly constructed employer mandate could have a devastating impact on main street businesses that would be saddled with a significant economic burden.
The Big “I” is also opposed to the creation of the "Navigators" grant program included in the legislation, which would award grants to public and private entities to conduct public education, distribute information and assist with health insurance enrollment. The legislation specifically states that health insurance issuers, including agents, would be prohibited from participating in the grant program.
A Navigators’ program would mistakenly entrust organizations with no prior health insurance background with the authority to advise individuals on their insurance decisions and would cut experienced and educated agents out of the process of boosting health insurance enrollment. Individuals seeking information on what health insurance plan best fits their needs should be able to count on sound advice from a licensed health insurance agent, broker or consultant. It is simply reckless to hand this trusted role over to random community organizations with no relevant health care background.