Should Virginia take steps this year to set up a health insurance exchange as envisioned by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?
Bad policy is bad no matter how it’s spinned
By Chris Head
Head, of Botetourt County, represents the 17th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.
I have been interested that few have offered feedback concerning the creation of a state insurance exchange. A couple of those who have contacted me directly have indicated that they didn’t understand what an exchange is supposed to be.
An exchange is, as described by Del. Jennifer McClellan, a marketplace. It has been described as being like Travelocity, but for insurance. On first glance this seems like a good idea, and if it could provide a completely transparent, tailored set of options that were available across state lines and run as a private, for-profit entity, it possibly would be.
Unfortunately, exchanges under the PPACA would have to meet guidelines dictated by the federal government. No one knows what that would look like or how, if at all, it would function. Additionally, in order for the concept of an exchange to work at all it needs to have a customer base with ready cash to spend. In the case of the Obamacare exchanges, the cash comes from federal tax credits, which add to the deficit. The creation of an exchange amounts to nothing more than a rearranging of the financial deck chairs, and, as is the case with the rest of the bill, does nothing to address the actual cost of care.
Bad policy is bad, no matter how you try to perfume the pig. I have stated before, if we want to lower the cost of insurance and health care delivery, we should encourage Congress to allow the purchase of insurance across state lines, re-examine and minimize insurance mandates in Virginia in order to allow companies to provide a basic policy without any “bells and whistles” and further examine tort reform to allow our health care professionals more protection, while still respecting the rights of the consumer.
Exchanges are a Republican invention
By Jennifer L. McClellan
McClellan, of Richmond, represents the 71st District in the Virginia House of Delegates.
While my colleague, Del. Chris Head, repeats the Republican talking points against the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare if you prefer, he does not provide any real argument that a state health benefits exchange is a bad idea.
Instead, he illustrates how good government and public policy can get tangled up in politics. His central point seems to be if it is a part of Obamacare, it must be bad. Never mind the fact that exchanges are a Republican idea, first implemented by Republican governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman before President Obama was ever elected.
Again, another Republican, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader William Frist has argued for states to adopt health benefits exchanges far better than I can. He explains that the exchanges will offer a menu of private insurance plans to pick and choose from, all with a required set of minimum benefits, to those without employer-sponsored health insurance. These exchanges are expected to bring private health insurance to an additional 16 million Americans who can choose the plan that’s right for them. You would think Republicans loath to expand Medicaid would jump all over that opportunity.
As outlined in my initial article, Virginia had already taken steps over the past two years to lay the foundation for an exchange to meet the needs of Virginians before Gov. Bob McDonnell introduced presidential politics into the mix. Establishing an exchange and giving Virginians without health insurance the opportunity to purchase it on the open market is the next logical step to accomplish the goal Head and I share — making sure every Virginian has access to affordable, accessible health care.
That’s why the governor’s own Health Reform Initiative recommended establishing an exchange to “preserve and enhance competition” and why three Republicans and three Democrats introduced bills to do just that.
These exchanges will make health care more affordable and accessible for thousands of Virginians who are counting on us to lead. Let’s not let ideological battles prevent us from getting them the best deal we can.
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