Rendell touts new plan in York
The governor talked to members of the county chamber of commerce about his new health care plan.
By TOM JOYCE
Daily Record/Sunday News
Gov. Ed Rendell started an appearance Wednesday night in York by outlining what he sees as some of the absurdities of Pennsylvania’s health care system.
It’s an industry where the customer’s willingness to pay has no role in keeping costs down, where you can end up paying multiple times for one service and where you’re implicitly expected to confine your illness or injury to normal business hours.
“Our health care delivery system is all screwed up,” Rendell told about 60 people at The Yorktowne Hotel, at an event sponsored by the York County Chamber of Commerce.
For about two hours, Rendell touted his Prescription for Pennsylvania, a comprehensive plan meant to improve health care for state residents while making the system more efficient.
Bob Jensenius, executive vice president of the chamber, said that the members welcomed Rendell’s offer to discuss the issue with them.
“That’s been a big issue for us for years – health care costs and the cost of health care plans for members,” Jensenius said.
It’s of particular concern to smaller businesses, Jensenius said. And of the chamber’s approximately 2,000 members, he said, about 80 percent have 20 or fewer employees.
The aspect of Rendell’s proposal that has garnered the most attention is his ultimate goal of providing medical coverage for every Pennsylvanian. In order to help fund that statewide coverage, Rendell proposes a tax on employers that don’t provide health insurance equal to 3 percent of their payroll, an increase in the state’s cigarette tax and a tax on smokeless tobacco and cigars.
But Wednesday night, Rendell outlined other elements of his plan that are designed to reduce health care costs statewide.
He said that emergency room care is exorbitantly expensive for providers, but that Pennsylvanians tend to rely on it too much either because they can’t afford a regular doctor or because it’s generally the only type of medical care available outside regular business hours. He hopes to take care of the former problem through broader health care coverage, and the latter through incentives to health care providers who offer services in the evening and on weekends.
Prescription for Pennsylvania would also change the way the state regulates the insurance industry, including prohibiting the use of demographic characteristics such as health status and gender in setting rates.
Afterward, Rendell answered some questions from the audience. In response to a question about protecting doctors from the cost of malpractice insurance, Rendell said that an element of the plan designed to cut infections contracted in hospitals should lower the number of malpractice suits and thus the overall malpractice costs in Pennsylvania.
Some members of the audience expressed their approval of his plans, but others had concerns.
Jim Cochran of Southcentral Preferred said that a prohibition on using demographics to set rates would put smaller insurers at a disadvantage and would likely drive many of them out of the state.
“Insurance is a game of numbers,” Cochran said. “The bigger your risk pool, the smaller the numbers you can quote.”