Hickenlooper proposes new health care reforms at Washington, D.C., press conference
Author: Tom Ramstack - February 23, 2018 - Updated: February 25, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper attempted to reform health care again Friday as he proposed a program to bring down costs at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
His plan, announced with the governors of Ohio and Alaska, seeks new efficiencies and incentives for patients to stay healthy, rather than running up their bills by waiting until they are sick.
Unlike a plan he proposed last summer with Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich, the proposal announced Friday is more comprehensive, Hickenlooper said. It is intended to control costs, stabilize insurance markets to make them more accessible, reduce regulatory expenses, and give states flexibility to develop their own solutions, such as with Medicaid.
Other components of the plan would encourage the development of technologies that give consumers more choice in how they spend their health care money. Health insurance costs would be based on each consumer’s ability to pay.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said the United States spends about 50 percent more than most industrialized countries on health care but ends up with a less healthy population.
“How did we get to this point?” Hickenlooper asked during the press conference at the National Press Club.
He mentioned an unnamed 60-year-old man in Colorado who earns less than $50,000 a year but spends a third of his income on health care.
Kasich spoke about the need for job training to help disabled persons return to work, where their employers’ health insurance could relieve their financial burdens.
“It’s really up to businesses” to control health care costs, Kasich said.
The current system is “out of control,” he said.
Hickenlooper and Kasich proposed a different set of health care reforms last summer that put greater emphasis on federal intervention. They failed to win support in Congress.
The Democratic and Republican governors announced the plan jointly to underscore the need for a bipartisan solution that would avoid popular support pitfalls of single-party proposals. Joining them in developing the proposal were independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Much of the plan, which the governors called a “blueprint,” is directed at transforming the insurance industry.
They want to eliminate duplicative regulations, launch an outreach campaign to enroll more health insurance subscribers and to get the federal government to restore subsidies for insurers.
President Donald Trump’s decision last year to stop the subsidies led to premium increases this year. Trump also drastically cut the budget to advertise for the 2018 Affordable Care Act’s enrollment season.
Other federal efforts should include reinsurance for the most expensive medical treatments, according to the blueprint. The reinsurance would protect insurance companies from a few patients’ catastrophic expenses that drive up everyone else’s premiums.
The idea for reinsurance was drawn from a similar program in Alaska. State officials say it has lowered premiums in a state plagued by obstacles to affordable health care.
“We have the highest cost of healthcare by far,” Walker said.
In other places, an ambulance ride to a hospital might take minutes, the Alaska governor said.
“For us, it might be 1,000 miles of transport by air,” Walker said.
A big focus of the blueprint is bringing costs down without sacrificing the quality of healthcare. Hickenlooper called it getting health care providers “to do more with less.”
The plan advocates a “holistic” approach to medicine that integrates various kinds of treatments for each patient instead of addressing them one ailment at a time.