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Federal health care reform implementation begins

Though many of us have grave concerns and opposition to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, Congress has not repealed it and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld nearly all of it. Washington state is moving forward.

The focus in this year's session was whether to expand Medicaid, and accept federal dollars, or not. Read this column by Rep. Joe Schmick, our lead on the Health Care and Wellness Committee, about the benefits and concerns with Medicaid expansion. Ultimately, Medicaid expansion was included in the final budget passed by the Legislature this year.

Recent articles related to federal health care reform:

Health care exchange lacks enough choices, variety of plans

Another major component of federal health care reform is setting up a health care exchange in our state to provide individuals and businesses a marketplace for buying insurance plans. The state's Health Benefit Exchange opens enrollment on Oct. 1. Find out more about insurance coverage and getting enrolled in the Exchange here.

The Insurance Commissioner initially denied five of the nine health insurers plans from being sold in The Exchange; however, three of the insurers successfully appealed and the Insurance Commissioner has now approved seven insurance companies to offer 43 plans for individuals in the exchange. At its Sept. 4 meeting, the Exchange Board certified 35 plans. The federal Office of Personnel Management had previously approved the other eight plans which are classified as multi-state plans. There is one additional insurer that could be approved in the near future.

Meanwhile, just one company, Kaiser Permanente, says it will offer insurance plans for small businesses in the exchange. This is not the competitive marketplace we were promised as Obamacare was being debated in Congress. Washington House Republicans have long believed our state's health insurance laws and regulatory processes have limited choice and competition. Those challenges are being more exposed as we implement federal health care reform. Read more about these problems in the articles to the right.

An argument for universal coverage

Avik Roy, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a health care writer at Forbes Magazine, argued that the status quo is no longer working, however. We must reduce the costs our federal government is currently spending on health care.

"The U.S. government spends more per capita on health care than the governments in many socialist states. However, the countries that achieve some form of universal coverage at the very lowest cost are not the highly socialist systems but the market-oriented systems, countries like Switzerland and Singapore." (Washington Policy Center note)

A better way

Roy goes on to say there is a way to provide universal coverage that is market-friendly and reduces costs for everyone.

"The power of a system of health savings accounts (HSAs) and government-mandated catastrophic coverage to bring down costs is extraordinary. As a percentage of private and public spending on health care of GDP, Singapore spends much less than does the American system. The only opposition to HSAs comes from those who believe that individuals are incapable of making their own health care decisions." (Washington Policy Center note)

House Republicans have long believed people should have more choices and power to control their health care costs. While federal health care reform implementation is well on its way, we do have control over how our state's Health Benefit Exchange is run. If we reduce regulations and expand HSAs, as we recently did with state employees, we could help everyone benefit from reduced costs, including taxpayers.