GALLAGHER PURSUES OPTIONS FOR THE UNINSURED
Committed to finding ways to offset rising health insurance premiums and put an end to predatory rating practices, especially for individuals and small businesses, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher has determinedly pursued remedies through both the Legislature and his department.
“So many hardworking individuals and small businesses are facing double-digit increases in their premiums and are struggling to obtain, and even maintain, health insurance,” said Gallagher. “I am particularly concerned that small employers will be forced to stop offering health insurance to their employees, leaving workers and their families with little or no options for coverage.”
In August 2003, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher was asked to co-chair the Governor’s 17-member Task Force on Access to Affordable Health Insurance with the Lt. Governor. Since that time, he has participated in public hearings in several cities, including Miami, Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, and received input from both consumers and businesses on a variety of health insurance issues. Experts in insurance, health care and academia also provided input.
Gallagher, along with task force members, approved several recommendations aimed at expanding consumers’ access to health insurance and helping revitalize Florida’s health insurance market. A summary of those recommendations is as follows:
1. KidCare Program: Encourage enrollment in the KidCare program, take steps to permit the use of local funding for additional slots and consider other funding options.
“For many working families, the greatest need they have is health insurance coverage for their children,” Gallagher said. “In fact, improving children’s access to health care is one of the best investments that Florida can make.”
2. High Risk Pool: Establish an insurer of last resort for individuals who are uninsurable and for individuals eligible for guaranteed issue coverage in the individual health insurance market as a result of federal coverage continuation requirements.
3. Consumer Protection and Information: Ensure consumers have access to information that will help them make informed health care purchasing decisions, including:
o Standardized policy forms so consumers can comparison shop among competing insurers;
o Regulation and disclosure requirements of Medical Discount Cards/Plans;
o Repeal of rating up of coverage in the small group market based on health status or claims experience;
o Transparency in pricing, cost and quality measures;
o Correlation between lifestyle choices and use of health care services.
4. Pooled Purchasing: Establish purchasing pools for small employer groups to increase their purchasing power and to promote opportunities to increase employer-sponsored insurance.
5. Expansion of Health Flex: Expand the Health Flex Plan Program statewide in order to offer more flexible, basic, low-cost health care coverage to the low-income working uninsured.
6. Local Initiatives: Encourage the development and expansion of local health care programs for individuals lacking health insurance.
7. Evidence-Based Medicine: Promote initiatives that increase the use of evidence-based medicine by physicians and health care institutions.
8. Utilization of Electronic Health Care Information: Encourage the development of electronic medical records that capture patient data and allow caregivers and receivers to share medical records, and encourage all providers to submit claims electronically.
9. Medicaid Restructuring: Restructure the Medicaid program to meet federal budget requirements and remain sensitive to local community needs to improve access to health care coverage.
10. Protection of Safety-Net Providers: Determine if there are additional ways to ensure access to health care for those that lack health insurance.
11. Information on the Uninsured: Track efforts to reduce the percentage of the uninsured, including the collection of relevant data.
Gallagher emphasized the need to carefully examine all of the aspects of the health care system and health insurance market. “We are going to send a report to the Legislature saying that this is what the experts say are the best ideas we have to improve Floridians’ access to needed medical care.”
For further information about the work of the Task Force, including the full content of the draft report, you may visit: http://www.fdhc.state.fl.us/affordable_health_insurance/index.shtml