Aetna Proposes Insurance Reform

By DIANE LEVICK
http://www.courant.com

Reform is needed to fix the crisis of the uninsured, but it requires a joint effort of government and the private sector and should preserve the nation’s employer-based health insurance system, Aetna Chief Executive Ronald A. Williams told a congressional panel Tuesday.

Changes in the $2.2 trillion U.S. health care system to help the 47 million uninsured must deal with the interrelated issues of cost, quality and access to care, he said.

“Solutions that purport to be a silver bullet or solutions that tackle one of these pieces without addressing the others will not transform the health care system in a way that Americans deserve,” Williams said in testimony given to the Senate Committee on Finance.

More than three years ago, Aetna became the first national insurer to publicly endorse a requirement that all people have at least basic health insurance. Williams described other points in Aetna’s plan for reform Tuesday, many of them shared by others in the insurance industry and some by politicians.

For instance, tax treatment of health insurance should be equalized for consumers whether they get coverage through employers or individual policies on their own, Williams said. Workers currently get a tax break because they can use pre-tax dollars to pay premiums for coverage by an employer’s health plan.

Aetna also supports allowing consumers to buy health insurance from states other than their own. The theory is that policies may be cheaper in states where fewer benefits are required by law to be covered.

New pooling mechanisms could be fostered to make insurance more affordable for individuals and small businesses, and existing state pools for high-risk individuals should be better funded so they could expand, according to Aetna.

Tuesday’s hearing was the third in a series the finance committee is holding to prepare for action on health care reform next year. In addition to Williams, the panel heard from an Ohio small-business owner, a Texas woman who faced leukemia with very limited insurance, and a Wake Forest University professor of law and public health.

This article originally appeared at Courant.com. They have removed it but we will archive it here.

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