Barack Obama’s ambitious health care plan is fairly simple and straightforward. His plan seeks to dramatically and swiftly increase the number of people that have medical insurance. He insists that this plan will save the typical American family approximately $2500 in annual costs. Since the average Ohio premium is less than most other states, savings to Ohio residents may average less than $2500.
The plan is designed to give the federal government more control over medical decisions and dollars, a major difference from the current decentralized system of employer-based insurance and state-based insurance regulation. Here in Ohio, insurers have been effectively held in check by the Ohio Department of Insurance. This, however, is not the case in many other states.
The Obama Plan
Many parts of the Obama plan resemble initiatives from the Clinton health plan of 1994 and the Kerry Health plan of 2004.
Essentially, Obama’s plan is divided into three sections:
1. Modernizing the US system to lower costs and improve quality
2. Promoting prevention and strengthening public health
3. Quality, portable and affordable health coverage for every person
The $2500 in savings will come from health care reform, using some of the following initiatives:
*Making medical insurance universal, which may reduce spending on uncompensated care.
*Improving management and prevention of chronic conditions.
*Increasing insurance industry competition and reducing underwriting costs and profits.
*Providing reinsurance for catastrophic coverage, which will reduce insurance premiums.
Shifting Cost Burden
While all of these ideas are feasible, the underlying theme seems to be simply shifting some of the cost burden from the private sector to the government. And of course, much more control of our dollars and decisions would come from Washington D.C and not Anthem or UnitedHealthCare.
The plan will actually compete directly with Ohio private insurance companies in a “National Health Insurance Exchange.” The federal government (not health insurance carriers) would determine the quality of benefits that Americans would receive. And these new rules would apply to both the new national health plan and all participating private health plans.
Preventative Coverage Would Be Emphasized
Obama’s health care plan will encourage “healthy lifestyles” with specific emphasis on wellness. Employer wellness programs will be increased, and cafeterias and vending machines in the workplace may see healthier food.
School-based screening programs may increase along with increased support for physical education.
For Ohio individuals and families, the Obama plan would require preventative services on many federally-supported programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP. One benefit may be possible discounts to on insurance premiums for enrollment in wellness and prevention programs.
Currently, some Ohio individual health insurance policies offer a similar discount, such as Anthem’s Lumenos Health Incentive Account (HIA).
Ohio Group Health Insurance
Employer-based health insurance would radically change under the Obama plan. Here in Ohio, both small and large employers are able to choose among many different plans for their employees. The Obama plan would force employers to offer a specific level of health benefits to their employees or pay a tax to finance a national health program. Currently, the amount of provided health benefits and the size of the tax have not been specifically discussed.
Perhaps the best and most economical plan for Ohio residents would be a concept already in place… HSAs (Health Savings Accounts). Thus, instead of imposing a top-down change on the health care system, it would seem to be prudent to transfer direct control of medical dollars to individuals and families. This would allow Americans to choose their own health plans and benefits, while making companies compete directly for consumer’s dollars by providing a real value to patients.
All of this could be accomplished by specific tax and regulatory changes designed to utilize the power of free-market competition. Health care spending could be reduced, preventative treatment could be emphasized and portability could be promoted. Reforming the tax treatment of health insurance and aiding employers that help their employees buy health insurance would help quite a bit.
For now, Ohio health insurance rates are remarkably low compared to many other states. There are many reputable insurance companies that offer a wide array of policies, including Health Savings Accounts. That shouldn’t change much for the next two years. In 2011, things might change… hopefully, for the better.