AHIP Submits Comments on Solutions to Achieve Universal, High-Quality Coverage
Today, AHIP submitted comments responding to a request for information on ways to achieve universal, high-quality coverage. Health insurance providers agree that all Americans should have both high-quality and affordable coverage choices. The facts do not support a public health insurance option as the way to achieve that shared goal. In its comments, AHIP offers alternative solutions, building on what is already working to lower health care costs, increase coverage choices, and encourage competition and innovation to make coverage more affordable and accessible for everyone.
Here are highlights from our comment letter:
"Approximately 300 million Americans - more than 90% - have health insurance coverage today. They are served through different markets specifically designed for their needs, including through employer-provided coverage, the individual market, Medicare, Medicaid and other public programs. The vast majority of people are served by health insurance providers that compete vigorously to offer the most cost-effective, high-quality products possible."
"We share your goal of getting covered the remaining 30 million uninsured Americans. It is more than a goal - it is a top priority. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 20 million of these individuals are already eligible for subsidized Medicaid, exchange premium tax credits or employer coverage, and this estimate was prior to the recent expansion of premium tax credit eligibility included in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
"Spending time and resources designing and implementing an unproven and impractical federal public option will not suddenly close the coverage gap, but rather would exacerbate many of the problems of high costs and limited consumer choices outlined in the request for information. A public option sidesteps the root causes of why millions remain uninsured, both a lack of awareness about coverage options and the high cost of delivering medical care and prescription drugs. Instead, it would rely on government rate setting and fee-for-service reimbursement. Further, a federal public option will divert attention away from much-needed health care reforms that have strong bipartisan support today."
"Americans continue to demonstrate they want solutions that build on the existing health care system, including the ACA. In a June 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, 53% of American adults held a favorable view of the law, up from 33% in November 2013. Conversely, only 1 in 3 American adults (35%) view the ACA negatively, down from an all-time high of 53% in July 2014. Support for coverage options and patient protections enacted as part of the ACA has continued to grow with the recent strengthening of the ACA in ARPA."
"Every day, health insurance providers help their customers navigate an often-confusing system and advocate on their behalf for essential care and lower prices. However, swift action is necessary to address one fundamental issue - the underlying cost of health care - which will in turn make coverage more affordable for everyone. The underlying costs of both medical services and prescription drugs continue to grow. Cost is the biggest barrier to coverage, and that challenge cannot be fully solved without focusing on the prices of care itself. We can take steps to increase health care competition and drive better value in health care spending."
"We stand ready to partner with you to expand affordable coverage to those Americans who remain uninsured. And we stand ready to work with you to address underlying cost drivers and market distortions that are driving premium increases - prescription drug pricing and anticompetitive practices, vertical provider consolidation across the health care system, third party payments driving patients to higher-cost drugs and settings of care, and overly restrictive market rules inhibiting private market innovation and value-based insurance design."
USofCare Offers Congress Lessons Learned and Policy Recommendations for Federal Public Option Legislation
On July 30, 2021, United States of Care submitted to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions policy recommendations for a federal public health insurance option. In May, as a first step towards developing federal legislation in this area, the committees issued a Request For Information to stakeholders who could advise on this policy.
According to USofCare's public opinion research, costs are people's foremost concern about the health care system. The survey found that 42% have foregone health insurance in the past, and 41% of those under 30 have opted not to seek medical treatment last year. Small businesses face the same crisis as they struggle to provide affordable insurance to their employees.
Affordability has emerged as an especially critical issue amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when people have lost both their jobs and their health care -- while contract and gig workers remain entirely on their own to find coverage.
Since its founding nearly four years ago, USofCare has worked to enact public options at the state level. Recognizing the promise that a federal public health insurance option carries, the recommendations which the organization submits today are informed by expertise gained through groundbreaking state efforts for affordable and dependable health care.
Natalie Davis, co-founder and acting Executive Director of United States of Care, said:
"United States of Care is pleased to offer our suggestions to Chairwoman Murray and Chairman Pallone on how to structure a federal public health insurance option. When we talk to people across the country, cost is the number one concern. Our recommendations are directly aimed at improving the affordability, accessibility, dependability, and quality of the nation's health care system.
Building on our campaigns with partners and advocates across the country, USofCare's recommendations center on the needs we've heard directly from people and the lessons we've learned through our extensive work to pass major affordability laws in states."
As evidence of the growing momentum for public health insurance options, United States of Care pointed to recent milestone affordability laws in Colorado and Nevada. Its polling demonstrates further momentum, as almost 70% of voters nationwide support a public health insurance option, including 54% of Republicans and 68% independents.
Additionally, USofCare highlighted the urgent need and opportunity to continue progress on broadening health care access and affordability. Their research further shows that 84% of people agree that we must build a better and more equitable system in the wake of the pandemic.
"It's clear that we can't go back to the system that, even before the pandemic, wasn't working for everyone. The lessons and advice we submit today can help build a better system that works for more people and can bring them more certainty that they can afford quality care -- a crucial step as we look to round the corner on the pandemic."