Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Promising New Legislation – Part I

House and Senate Bills 5 may blow some much-needed fresh air into the Ohio small group market. Among the proposed changes:
- New “Flexible Health Benefit Plans” would be created for small business employers
- Availability of health savings accounts (HSA) would be increased by encouraging more HMO participation
- Would allow HSA products to be reinsured through a state operated reinsurance program
- Health care providers would be required to provide consumers advanced notice of health care services costs
- Proposes an analysis of a high-risk pool as a health insurance option for uninsured Ohioans, and further analysis of how to increase participation in small employer purchasing alliances.
This post will examine the first three items on that list. I’ll cover the other two in a separate post.
I do see the overall plan as a welcome change from “business as usual.” The first two items merge well with the drive toward more consumer driven health care. The Flex Health plans envision a major reduction in the number and scope of mandated coverages. It’s been estimated that as much as 17% of the cost of health insurance is due to government-mandated benefits, often ones that most people don’t even want.
I seriously doubt that we’d see a substantial growth in the actual purchase of HSA plans due to increased marketing by HMO’s. Let’s face it, MSA’s/HSA’s have been available for a long time now, and it’s not availability that has limited their expansion in the marketplace. It’s the fundamentally flawed pricing model.
I’ll reserve judgment on the efficacy (and, indeed, the necessity) of reinsuring HSA’s. As noted above, it’s not availability that has limited their growth in the marketplace.
To be continued…
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