Our Point of View
March 22, 2010
Kaiser Permanente Comments on House Passage of the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Kaiser Permanente has a long history of supporting affordable access to high-quality health care. From our earliest days providing health care to workers in the Kaiser shipyards of World War II to our current programs that provide subsidized coverage to those in economic distress, care-and-coverage-for-all has been central to our mission.
Assuming the reconciliation bill passes the Senate and the President signs the health care reform legislation into law, reform will make history and improve lives in some important ways. Thirty-two million Americans, who today find themselves outside the system, will finally have needed access to vital preventive services and chronic disease management. Medicare will reward high-quality health care for the first time in its history, as a first important step in fixing a health care system that has long rewarded the provision of more care instead of better care. Guaranteeing health care coverage and connecting financial incentives to high-quality care are watershed changes in the U.S. health care system that will substantially improve the lives of Americans.
This legislation also would establish a number of important principles that, over time and with continued refinement, should improve the functioning of the health insurance market and health care delivery system. These include the belief that health coverage should be universal, an obligation to obtain coverage creates a corresponding obligation to make coverage available; health plans should compete based on quality, service and efficiency, not the avoidance of risk; consumers should have a broad choice of plans through exchanges and the data to make informed choices; and care delivery systems should be paid in a manner that rewards improved performance on quality and efficiency.
This legislation includes a few provisions which we hope will be revisited in the future. Effective implementation of the annual insurer tax and Medicare Advantage rate changes will require ongoing partnership and dialogue with policymakers.
We also know that as important as greater access to health care will be for the American people, costs will continue to grow for employers and families if we as a country don’t take further steps toward improving care and changing payment incentives. Incentives for high-quality Medicare Advantage plans and improvements in coverage of preventive care in the current bill are strong first steps in this effort. But to bend the cost curve over the long term, we must look at how we pay for care and how we provide care as a nation.
We look forward to working with the Administration, Congress, the states and other key stakeholders in the months ahead as we embark on this next phase of U.S. health care reform.