Posted on 26 Mar 2009
Testifying on behalf of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger offered Congress the assistance of state insurance regulators in crafting legislation to address health insurance access and affordability.
"State insurance regulators believe it is important to ensure that affordable, sufficient health coverage is available to small business owners, their employees and individuals," said Praeger, who is also NAIC immediate past president and chair of the NAIC Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee. “The NAIC offers its full support in developing federal legislation that will reach this goal—a goal that can only be attained through federal-state coordination.”
Praeger provided comments at a roundtable hearing of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a session titled, “Addressing Insurance Market Reform in National Health Reform.”
“Years have been spent talking about broad health care reforms that will ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance coverage and the peace of mind that goes with it,” Praeger said. “Action is long overdue and we stand ready to assist in whatever way we can.”
Introduced at the hearing by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) — who described her extensive public service and experience with health reform as a mayor, state legislator and insurance commissioner — Praeger emphasized four key principles for Congress to consider when enacting health reform legislation:
*Address Health Care Spending. Any effort to increase access to insurance will not be successful over time unless the overriding issue of rapidly rising health care costs is also addressed.
*Protect the Rights of Consumers. The states already have the patient protections, solvency standards, fraud prevention programs and oversight mechanisms in place to protect consumers; these should not be preempted by the federal government. Praeger urged policymakers to preserve state oversight of health insurance and avoid preempting or superseding state consumer protections.
*Avoid Adverse Selection. Any program that grants consumers the choice between two pools with different rating, benefit or access requirements will result in adverse selection for one of the pools. While subsidies or incentives could ameliorate some of the selection issues, the effectiveness of such inducements could erode as costs continue to rise and premiums increase.
*Preserve a Strong State Role. Congress must carefully consider the impact of any new federal reforms on the states’ ability to be effective partners in solving the health care crisis. In addition, the NAIC urges Congress to review current federal laws and regulations that hinder state efforts to reform the health care system.
“The NAIC encourages Congress to work with states and learn from past reforms,” Praeger said. “Together, we can implement successful initiatives that will truly protect and assist all consumers.”