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Insurance Commissioner Says Federal Health Care Reform Necessary to Fix a Broken System

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Citing the 300,000 Pennsylvanians on the state's waiting list for subsidized health insurance coverage, state Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario today urged the U.S. Congress to enact a set of core health insurance reforms that will give Pennsylvania and other states tools needed to fix the deep-seated problems with the current health care system.

"Lost in the din of the recent town hall meetings was the fact that many Pennsylvanians are losing coverage and a much larger number face unfair limitations on coverage and spiraling costs," said Ario. "Governor Rendell has been outspoken in saying that the health care system is broken and, as his Insurance Commissioner, I want to emphasize that there are some common sense solutions that offer a way out of the current morass, where peripheral issues get more play than the consensus reforms that are embedded in every major reform bill now pending.

"Three essential reforms enjoyed bipartisan support as Congress developed legislation last spring. First, end pre-existing condition exclusions and other discrimination based on health status, so that everyone can access coverage. Second, require everyone to purchase health insurance, so that insurance works like it is supposed to work in spreading costs across large risk pools. Third, provide reasonable subsidies so that coverage is affordable for everyone.

"These three reforms build on each other to create a fair and efficient system," Ario added. "We cannot cover everyone if insurance companies are free to exclude people with health problems. But it is not practical to require insurance companies to cover everyone if people can jump in and out of coverage as they need it. And it is not fair to require low-income citizens to buy coverage if they can not afford it.

Each of the bills before Congress includes many other elements, many of which are cost-control measures designed to slow the rate of growth in health care spending. Other provisions address Medical Assistance and Medicare reforms, expand use of electronic medical records and establish new mechanisms, such as insurance exchanges, that make it easier for individuals and small businesses to enjoy the same range of choices that large employers typically offer their employees through a cafeteria plan.

"Congress still faces some tough choices -- especially on cost control. But if they listen to the experts and avoid excess partisanship, there is a golden opportunity to set a new foundation for a health care system in which insurance companies cover the sick as well as the healthy, and all Americans accept personal responsibility for obtaining insurance coverage, much as they already do, in most states, for auto insurance.

"Once these principles are in place, states should be given flexibility to implement the reforms," said Ario, noting that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC, was united in supporting the three core reforms even though there were significant differences among the states on other health insurance issues.

"Our nation is too vast and too varied for one regulatory regime to fit all needs," Ario concluded. "Congress should allow states wide latitude to enforce their respective laws when those laws provide greater consumer protections than those afforded by federal law."

    Rosanne Placey or Melissa Fox

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Insurance
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