Retail News Breaks
New coalition makes affordable health coverage its cause
November 7th, 2013
WASHINGTON – Amid rising public uncertainty about the impact of health care reform, a national group of organizations including large and small employers, pharmacy benefit managers, health providers, health benefits advisers and health plans has formed the Affordable Health Benefits Coalition (AHBC), which aims to further policy ideas that help people get more affordable health coverage.
AHBC, announced Wednesday, is chaired by Neil Trautwein, vice president and employees benefits counsel at the National Retail Federation (NRF), and is directed by Stacey Rampy, a principal at Washington lobbying firm Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti.
"The Affordable Health Benefits Coalition seeks to focus the health care debate on the affordability of health care coverage," Trautwein said in a statement. "The AHBC will promote regulations and nonpartisan policies that improve the affordability of coverage and care."
A major component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Health Insurance Marketplace and state health insurance exchanges, kicked off Oct. 1 but has seen a rough start as technical glitches impeded access to the websites and the ability to shop for and enroll in health plans. Many consumers, too, are discovering that new requirements under the ACA are resulting in the cancellation of their current insurance plans, pushing them to the exchanges to get new coverage.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 7 million people will buy private plans via the exchanges in 2014, and 9 million will get coverage through Medicaid eligibility.
AHBC noted that to encourage as many Americas as possible to obtain coverage, lawmakers and regulators must issues within the law that could negatively impact the affordability of coverage. Without affordable coverage options, younger, healthier individuals — whose participation is key to keeping costs down for everyone — may not buy coverage.
To help improve the availability of affordable coverage options and promote a more balanced risk pool, the coalition is advancing an array of policy priorities. They include balancing the often competing priorities of affordability and benefit design in future consideration of essential health benefits; ensuring flexibility for employers and health plans in benefit package designs, including high-value provider networks and cost-sharing; and adopting additional means to promote continuous coverage.
"A greater understanding about the many factors that contribute to higher health care coverage costs is critical if we are going to truly expand access of affordable coverage to more Americans," Rampy stated. "We want to work with stakeholders and policymakers alike to address rising health care costs. While the near-term focus is on the health care reform law, the coalition also wants to foster a greater understanding of the multiple factors that contribute to higher health care costs. By increasing this awareness, policymakers can help address rising health care costs without sacrificing quality."
Besides the NRF, AHBC's members include the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), American Rental Association (ARA), Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR), Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) and American Supply Association (ASA).
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