Cost reduction still missing from health measure, Grand Junction expert says

The health-care overhaul bill approved Tuesday by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee falls short in one significant area, the one pitched as reducing health-care costs, a local observer said.

“The things that really affect the delivery of health care, the cost-containment mechanisms, have yet to be determined,” said Steve ErkenBrack, president of Grand Junction-based Rocky Mountain Health Plans.

Legislation in both houses calls for an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, as well as requirements that insurance companies provide coverage despite pre-existing conditions that otherwise disqualify a person. The mandate also would limit insurers’ ability to charge higher premiums on the basis of age or family size.

Getting everybody paying into the system “is absolutely essential,” ErkenBrack said. “The challenge is finding a way to do it in a cost-effective manner.”

Legislation proposed in both houses envisions higher taxes. In the House, an income-tax surcharge on million-dollar wage-earners is one proposal, and the Senate Finance Committee bill calls for a new excise levy on insurance companies selling high-cost policies.


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