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Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 15, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Bradley of New Hampshire). Pursuant to House Resolution 770 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill, H.R. 5025.

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. I thank the gentleman for yielding time.

Mr. Chairman, I want to address just the main criticism the gentleman from Virginia just mentioned. Two things. He says adverse selection, which means healthy and wealthy people will leave other health care plans and premiums will go up for everybody else. Point number one. The Office of Personnel Management took this concern very seriously. So when they constructed this new health savings account option within the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, an additional option for Federal employees, they designed the premium so that that would not happen. Specifically, Federal employees would pay $42.25 every 2 weeks for the Mail Handlers high deductible plan compared to $45.16 for the standard coverage, an insignificant difference of $2.81 for every 2 weeks. For family coverage, the difference would be 11 cents. These very small differences in premiums will ensure that healthy employees are not attracted to HSAs by their premium. So the concern of the gentleman, which is a concern, was already addressed by the OPM.

But one more point and the second point is this. All of the data on adverse selection has been coming back and none of it has been true. This was a concern that we were very concerned about. We want to make sure that the healthy and wealthy were not fleeing traditional health care plans, leaving them in jeopardy, raising premiums for other people.

Since these plans have been offered since January and believe me, Mr. Chairman, they have been really proliferating, the data is showing us the opposite has occurred. The data is showing us that sicker, older people are being more attracted to health savings accounts.

A couple of statistics. Assurant Health Care Plan, the leading provider of these in America, happens to be located in Milwaukee; 43 percent of their HSA applicants did not have any prior coverage at all. Forty-three percent of the people who bought these HSAs were uninsured. Thirty-two percent of HSA applicants had not had coverage for at least 6 months prior to enrollment. Half of all HSA applicants had incomes under $35,000. That is from eHealthInsurance, the major clearinghouse of all HSA products, the big Web site you go to to buy an HSA. Half of all their applicants earned under $35,000. EHealthInsurance again, the clearinghouse, 46 percent of HSA purchasers have family incomes less than 50 grand.

We are seeing that lower income workers and families are going toward HSAs and older, less healthy people are going toward HSAs. So the data is showing that that is not true.

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Chairman, just three points need to be made about this amendment.

Point number one, this is an option from which Federal employees can choose. Why deprive them of this additional choice? They do not want the product, they do not have to have it. Why take it away from them?

Point number two, just in case these adverse selection concerns are valid, that is why OPM designed this product with identical premiums so it does not occur. So they already addressed the concern just in case there is any adverse selection that occurs out there.

But now what we are seeing from the data is that adverse selection not only is not happening. The opposite is happening. Lower-income, older, sicker people are buying health savings accounts. The data we get every day is disproving this notion of adverse selection. But just in case OPM designed this so that the premium is virtually identical to the rest of the premiums so that there is a safety valve, an insurance policy, to make sure that those concerns are not validated, do not manifest themselves.

Do not take this option away from 8 million families. I urge a vote "no" on this amendment.

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