Thursday, October 22, 2009

Insurance news: MN governor calls on all governors to sign compact for cross-border insurance sales, Travelers doesn't need its umbrella so much, and skinny toddler gets her health insurance

Let's start with the New York Times, which details Congress' efforts to ratchet up the pressure on insurers.

The paper also makes the case that a vote on a Medicare bill has “become a proxy for larger issues in the debate over legislation to overhaul the health care system" -- and bodes ill for quick passage of a health reform bill.

Also from the Times comes this factoid of the day: Paul Krugman says that Medicare and Medicaid -- i.e. the government -- pay for 70 percent of the hip replacements in America.

In Minnesota, Gov. Pawlenty is trying to get other governors to sign onto his plan to set national health insurance standards and then let people buy policies from anywhere in the country. (Insurance is sold -- and largely regulated -- on a state-by-state basis now.)
In North Carolina, Travelers saw a jump in profits for the third quarter. It cited lower severe-weather losses and a rebound in its investment portfolio.

Fox News reports that some Senate moderates are uneasy about a public plan.

Lastly, the case of the toddler too skinny to get health coverage: UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest insurer, apparently knows bad PR when it sees it. Within hours of little Aislin Bates' parents going on national TV and being bannered across internet sites, UnitedHealth reversed its earlier decision not to cover the 22-pound 2-year-old.

Making it real: The states' role in making federal health-care reform work at the local level

I wrote recently  about our office's effort to get ahead of the curve for whatever health reforms are approved by Congress. Whatever passes -- assuming that something does -- it looks increasingly likely that enacting the changes will fall partly to the states.

To make that transition as smooth as possible, Washington's insurance commissioner, Mike Kreidler, plans to convene a "realization committee" to gather ideas and input for implementing any new reforms.

In anticipation of federal health-insurance reforms that will fall partly on the states to enact, Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is convening a "realization committee" to gather ideas and input for implementing the federal reforms, and then to make suggestions on the best approaches.

In some ways, the group is similar to the 2008 "local leadership councils" for health care issues. The councils, created by the legislature and convened by our office, tapped more than 120 small business owners, public health officers, mayors, hospital administrators, tribal leaders, doctors, nurses, etc. for their thoughts on health care reforms. They were asked things like how they would start health reform in WA, what an ideal health care program would look like, etc. From the resulting report:

Most council members were hopeful that significant healthcare reform would happen at the national level within four years. While a few initial comments showed some interest in pausing to see what national efforts would produce, there was near consensus about the fact that the state should not be idle and should push forward on healthcare reform. One participant said that “the state should be shovel-ready.”
That, in essence, seems to be the goal of the new committee: making sure Washington's ready to pick up whatever baton D.C. hands us.

For more about the specifics of what emerged from those early discussions, here's a link to the full report.