The association representing the nations Blues plans, which cover more than 100 million Americans, has drawn a line in the sand in vehement opposition to a public healthcare insurance option under consideration as part of overall healthcare reform.
Blues fight back
Obama’s public plan called fatal to private insurance
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association held a news conference last week to highlight initiatives by member plans in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and New Jersey, aimed at improving quality and lowering costs. Top executives said a public-plan optionbacked by leading congressional Democratsthat competes with private insurance would stifle these innovations. As we move towards healthcare reform, we need to build on what is working, said Scott Serota, Blues president and CEO. Government programs such as Medicare are unable to implement innovative programs like the private sector can.
The statements by Blues executives were more forceful than those of Americas Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying group for major insurers, which has said that it needs to see the details of a public plan option but has concerns about provider reimbursement. The American Hospital Association has not taken a formal opinion on the public plan option, but officials there have said they are also concerned about reimbursement under such a system.
Congressional leaders are debating whether to include a government-run health insurance option in a healthcare reform bill. Supporters say that such a program, modeled after Medicare, would create a floor of health insurance for all Americans, helping expand coverage to the 45 million uninsured.
President Barack Obama backed this idea during the campaign, and many congressional Democrats support it. However, some Republican leaders have called a public plan option a deal-breaker, agreeing with the Blues executives that it could harm employer-sponsored coverage and stifle competition.
The reason a government program isnt a good idea is it wont operate on a level playing field, said Bill Marino, president and CEO of Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey. A government healthcare plan will likely destroy the private marketplace because of cost-shifting.
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