Reform opponents have vested interest in status quo

'Insurance exchange is an exercise in group purchasing.'

Guest Column: Ted Almon
The message of a recent story (“New group wants input on health exchange,” March 16, 2012, PBN.com) should not surprise us. When nearly 20 percent of the state’s economy is involved, as it is with health care, all that money is flowing through the hands of lots of folks who surely don’t want the course of that flow altered, and probably don’t really want to see it reduced much either. More

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OP-ED

Reform opponents have vested interest in status quo

'Insurance exchange is an exercise in group purchasing.'

Guest Column: Ted Almon
Posted 4/16/12

The message of a recent story (“New group wants input on health exchange,” March 16, 2012, PBN.com) should not surprise us. When nearly 20 percent of the state’s economy is involved, as it is with health care, all that money is flowing through the hands of lots of folks who surely don’t want the course of that flow altered, and probably don’t really want to see it reduced much either.

First, full disclosure. Our company is not a health care provider, but our customers are. We have observed that despite businesses paying ever-higher health insurance premiums, however, our customers, especially the hospitals and primary care practitioners, are not prospering.

Our health-insurance system often operates like a mysterious black box. It demands ever more money from us and our employees, but what some of those providing the actual care get out is increasingly inadequate. What gives?

Just think of those now forming this new interest group, the Coalition for Affordable Health Care Choices, as the people who have been operating the black box. Think of the health-insurance exchange as an alternative to the black box.

I have spent most of two decades talking to small-business people about health care costs. What they want is what we all should want, a system that provides the highest-quality care our economy can reasonably support. It should be one in which businesses here are not burdened by health care costs much higher than their global competitors, and one in which small businesses as well as large make a predictable and affordable contribution to the costs of their employees’ health care needs.

We should examine the motives of this new coalition in the debate on that basis as well. How would each of them be impacted financially by a successful health-insurance exchange, one that was a sufficiently vibrant force to stimulate needed change in payment methods. In other words, an exchange that actually contained costs.

I don’t think one would be too cynical to conclude that by this standard the members of this new coalition should be quite suspect. It isn’t that anyone should discourage their participation in the debate. Indeed, most of them are already very engaged with the broader groups working on the exchange and related reform issues – so why the need to ostracize themselves and fragment the effort? Let’s take a look.

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