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Editorial: New York making its own way on health care

States taking steps to make sure citizens have health insurance are performing a great public service. It may be a costly stance to take, but one well worth the bill if it means those living above the Medicaid threshold will have coverage.

New York counts itself among states whose leaders have taken a hard stance against the pushback on the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health plan that covered millions of formerly uninsured. Unfortunately, it proved expensive, and, as health insurers across the country that have pulled out of exchanges demonstrated, the price keeps getting higher.

However, the price tag does not signal it is time to give up. Re-engineering, yes. Quitting, no.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently made his own bold statement in announcing a series of steps to safeguard insurance coverage against a possible repeal of all or parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Using “emergency regulations,” any private company inclined to do business on the state’s insurance marketplace must guarantee the 10 “essential health benefits” required by the 2010 health care law.
Cuomo has directed the state’s Health Department to block any company that withdraws from the exchange from participating in its Medicaid or children’s health plan.

Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Cuomo’s demand has to give insurers pause. They will have to weigh the price of losing big business against the cost of maintaining or establishing a presence on the exchange.

In the most recent sign of the marketplace’s instability, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York is seeking an average 48.8 percent increase in 2018 for individual health plans sold on the state’s health insurance exchange. On the other hand, Univera Healthcare is requesting an average increase of only 4.4 percent for its individual plans.

Insurance companies across the country have complained about rising medical and drug costs, along with increases in government fees, taxes and policies, all leading to higher premiums.
Anthem, one of the nation’s largest insurers, recently announced plans to exit the Ohio exchange in 2018. Companies have done the same in other states. But in some states, health insurers have been satisfied to remain in the exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act has had its flaws from the beginning. Critics have long said that the cost of insuring millions under the ACA would be unsustainable.

Call it Obamacare, call it Trumpcare, it is the duty of Congress to come up with an affordable solution that doesn’t snatch the health insurance away from millions of Americans. If not, states will have to go it alone, as New York is doing.

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