By Laura Kaslow - Sr. PR Specialist | Digital & Social Engagement

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Future of Health Reform: A need for a path toward middle ground

September 28, 2017

When it comes to what Congress should do to reform health care, Washington remains very divided. In fact, in recent weeks, Democrats and Republicans have moved from the beginning of some bipartisan talks to promoting two radically different and partisan solutions.

To get a better understanding of where the health reform conversation stands today, we sat down with Scott Keefer, vice president of public affairs at Blue Cross, about what’s happening in Washington and what we can hope to see going forward.

We’ve heard about two very different solutions lately to replace the Affordable Care Act. Can you explain them?

Most recently, Republicans proposed a block grant, which would have given a set amount of federal money to each state for administering their health care programs. Flexibility as promised under this approach is important, but block grants would create a patchwork of rules that vary widely by state. Here in Minnesota, we would have seen  a dramatic reduction in federal funding for health care. Due to lack of overall Republican support, the block grant proposal did not move forward for a vote.

On the flip side, some Democrats are pushing for a single-payer system. While this approach comes with a promise of lower costs without limitations, disruption for all Americans, particularly those in employer-based plans, is glossed over. In short, a “one size fits all” approach to government-run health care would limit consumer choice, innovation in health care and, of course, how to pay for it.

Both sides have very different approaches to reforming health care. Is there hope for the two sides to come together?

While there was some bi-partisan conversation beginning to happen, that essentially fell apart in the last few weeks. Instead, we now have a very far left proposal—a single-payer system— and a very far right solution— the block grant proposal.

Blue Cross wants to see the parties come together to find a solution in the middle that makes sure everyone in Minnesota is able  to receive the health care they need.  I talked in more detail about the Blue Cross perspective on how to make reform work for Minnesotans in a previous blog post in this series.

We hear regularly from people across Minnesota who want a solution that will make health reform work.  Blue Cross is committed to continue to listen to the needs of all Minnesotans and work with both parties to work toward that solution.

We’re also paying close attention to what’s happening with the reinsurance program. What do we know?

As was discussed in a previous blog post, reinsurance helps offset unusually expensive claims and keeps premiums more stable by helping manage the cost of care.

Funding for this program will help bring down rates as much as 20 percent. For example, a 20 percent reduction could mean that a family’s expected $1,000 premium could come down to about $800. That could be the difference between Minnesotans being able to afford health coverage or not.

We recently learned that the federal government approved Minnesota’s reinsurance waiver, but withdrew some funding for MinnesotaCare, a program that provides coverage for Minnesotans with lower incomes. We don’t agree with the cut to MinnesotaCare funding, but Minnesotans are relying on lasting solutions that support our hard-working family farmers, the self-employed, and entrepreneurs in the individual market. Recent federal approval of Minnesota’s reinsurance program would bring some stability for 2018, if the state accepts it, but this is an interim step.

What else would you like people to know about health reform policy?

The thing that I would say is that if you have questions, be curious, look at several sources for prospective.

If you want to keep up with Blue Cross’ point of view, continue to follow our Future of Health reform posts on the blog and watch for regular updates on the public policy page on bluecrossmn.com.  This is a great resource to keep up to date on Blue Cross’ point of view about currently policy, and offers informational resources and position statements and policy news.

About Scott Keefer
As vice president of public affairs, Scott Keefer represents Blue Cross as Minnesota’s health care leader with key stakeholder groups, including members, employees, community and civic groups, regulators and as a media spokesperson. He also leads the coordination of all state and federal advocacy and policy initiatives.

About the Future of Health Reform series
The Future of Health Reform is an ongoing series focused on the many changes taking place throughout the health insurance industry. Through this series, Scott Keefer, vice president of public affairs and communications for Blue Cross, looks at various policy issues that are rapidly shaping the transformation of health care across Minnesota and the nation.

Previous posts in this series include:

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