The Columbia Tribune - Hulshof Unveils Health-Care Proposal

News Article

By:  Kenny Hulshof
Date: Aug. 26, 2008
Location: Unknown


The Columbia Tribune - Hulshof Unveils Health-Care Proposal

Terry Ganey

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof today unveiled a state health-care plan that would funnel about $50 million into health savings accounts that poor and hard-to-insure people could access to help pay for medical insurance.

Under the plan, which Hulshof called HealthMAX, private insurance companies could offer competing health plans if they accept everyone regardless of medical condition. Hulshof said his plan was "bold" and "innovative" and unlike any under way in other states. He said it spreads insurance risks over a larger number of people.

"It addresses many of the problems we have," Hulshof said in a news conference today at the Missouri Heart Center in Columbia. "It is sustainable."

Hulshof rejected again a proposal by his opponent, Democrat Jay Nixon, to restore about 100,000 people to the state's Medicaid rolls. Nixon has also proposed plans to allow middle-class families to buy health insurance for their children through a government program. His plan was released a month ago.

While specific details of Hulshof's plan did not emerge during a 30-minute news conference, a prepared statement offered these components:

● Health plans offered through HealthMAX would not discriminate based on health status.

● People could gain access whether they are employed or not.

● Coverage would be taken from one job to another.

● A wide variety of plans would be offered, and workers with on-the-job coverage could decide to opt out of HealthMAX coverage.

The key component of the plan is the state would pay part of the premiums for those who cannot afford insurance. HealthMAX would provide funds to health savings accounts, and participants would be expected to contribute up to 5 percent of their income. Plan participants would be issued a health spending debit card to use for medical costs.

"Every participant would have guaranteed access to $500 in yearly preventive medical services," according to a prepared statement released by Hulshof's campaign.

Scott Baker, Hulshof's spokesman, said today was merely the start of the program's explanation and that more specifics would emerge in the future.

About 700,000 Missouri residents are without health-care insurance, including some 125,000 children. Political candidates have heard wide-ranging complaints this year from individuals and business owners about the escalating costs of premiums and the inability to get coverage.

Hulshof, Missouri's Ninth District congressman, said his plan would rely on market forces and would not force individuals or businesses to participate. He also said that, when looking at the plan, "I'm not going to propose anything that puts the state budget in jeopardy."

During the last legislative session, Gov. Matt Blunt sought to pass his own insurance plan, "Insure Missouri."

State Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia and vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Hulshof's plan was "different" and "better" than Blunt's and that the $50 million cost was workable. Robb called Hulshof's plan a work in progress.