In an effort to give consumers more choices when purchasing health insurance, U.S. Senator Mark Begich today introduced legislation calling for the creation of "copper plans" within the Affordable Care Act. These copper plans would give consumers the choice of paying lower premiums if they are willing to pay more for out-of-pocket medical costs. Like all other plans offered in the exchange Marketplace, the copper plans would also cover the 10 services included as essential health benefits as required in the Affordable Care Act.
"I have never been shy about calling for a fix when it is needed and this new bill is just one of the ways we can -- and should - make the health care law work better for Alaskans," Sen. Begich said. "These "copper plans' are just common sense -- more choices and lower premiums means more control for Alaskans."
The lower premiums provided by Sen. Begich's bill would be especially beneficial for young people who tend to have lower health care costs. The copper plan provides a balanced option for consumers who want to pay lower premiums, maintain their essential health benefits, and are willing to accept the higher out-of-pocket costs. Sen. Begich's bill would ensure that at least half of covered medical services are paid for by insurance companies.
"This is a common sense solution that gives individuals access to more affordable health care options without jeopardizing their security of knowing that an insurance company can't cancel your plan because you got sick, or have a pre-existing condition, or charge you more simply because you are a woman," said Begich. "We simply cannot afford to go back to the days when families were at the mercy of insurance companies when it came to their health and security and that is why I will continue to work to make fixes where they are needed and make this law work for Alaska."
In addition to introducing his legislation, Sen. Begich also sent a letter to President Obama today proposing several important improvements to the implementation of the new health care law in order to make health insurance more affordable, allow users to more easily browse and compare plans on the federally run website www.healthcare.gov, and give states another opportunity to request federal funding to create their own state-based Marketplace.
In the letter, Sen. Begich calls for:
Creating a new "copper" health insurance plan that features lower premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs: If consumers are willing to pay more of their medical costs they can choose this option and expect lower premiums than the other tier options. This option will be especially important in small-population states such as Alaska, where medical costs are incredibly high and there is not much competition among insurers.
Providing easier and smoother access to enrollment and comparison shopping: Website improvements should allow for consumers to "window shop" plans that include subsidy estimates, allowing them to more easily compare plans.
Making funding available to states to create their own Marketplaces: In many cases, states that chose to develop their own health exchanges are doing a better job signing up customers for health insurance. Though Sen. Begich agrees criticism of the federal website is justified, he believes states serious about improving access to quality health care coverage for their residents should be able to access federal funds to implement their own websites while using the success of other states as best-practices examples.