With the re-election of President Obama securing the future of his signature health care law, implementation of State Exchanges under the Patient Protection Act has returned to the national media spotlight. The media — all of it — got a lot wrong when this was first under debate; will they continue to do a disservice to the public by not explaining the importance of this part of the new health care law?
We hope not, but we aren't confident, so we're going to help you understand why it's so important and to be able to talk about it with your friends and family. Interestingly, we get a little boost from an unlikely ally:
"Helping more Americans find and compare the private insurance they need and can afford should be an easy principle both political parties agree on." ~ Former Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist
Bill Frist is not only the former majority leader in the Senate during George W. Bush's presidency, he also has his share of bona fides in understanding how the U.S. health care system operates. Frist is a Harvard-graduated cardio-thoracic surgeon, having specialized in health care policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
And he wrote an impassioned op-ed in The Week, imploring us to actively work to support the implementation of the state insurance exchanges that the Patient Protecton Act is making available in every state.
So what are the State Exchanges and why do you really, really want them implemented in spite of what House Republicans tell you about them?
In the words of former Leader Frist, State Exchanges are "perhaps the most innovative, market-driven, and ultimately constructive part of the law ... Originally a Republican idea, the state insurance exchanges mandated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will offer a menu of private insurance plans to pick and choose from, all with a required set of minimum benefits, to those without employer-sponsored health insurance."
- Private insurance plans
- Menu of options
Who will benefit from these Exchanges? Who are the people without insurance through their employer?
- Self employed individuals
- People who work for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees
- People between jobs
- Students who don't qualify to be on their parents' plan
Ok, so why are they so important? What happens if your state doesn't institute them?
Well, if you're a conservative, you definitely aren't going to like the alternative: a federally designed, one-size-fits-all exchange. Chew on that for a minute.
So what do you get if your state does institute them? Bill Frist again:
"The exchanges should facilitate competition among private insurers as they design new benefit packages and cut prices to stay ahead of the game. While I'm slow to favor a mandate, these exchanges will offer those who can benefit from insurance a broad array of tailored options and varying prices that should help them find it. Helping more Americans find and compare the private insurance they need and can afford should be an easy principle both political parties agree on. ... [State Exchanges] represent the federalist ideal of states as "laboratories for democracy." We are seeing 50 states each designing a model that is right for them, empowered to take into account their individual cultures, politics, economies, and demographics."
Senator Frist closes his piece with the following appeal:
I urge everyone — citizens, small businesses, health industry stakeholders, churches, large employers — to actively participate in shaping your exchange so that it reflects your state's values, economy, and common sense.
Simply put, state exchanges represent a distinctly American opportunity to improve our local communities and at the same time help our nation avert a major crisis. Let's take the plunge.
Please contact your representative in congress and tell them you support the establishment of a health insurance exchange in your state. Tell them you want them to call on your governor to submit a blueprint before the deadline so that you have a say in how health care is managed in your state.
And don't forget to CALL YOUR GOVERNOR and tell them that for the sake of your state's ability to control its own health care outcome, to take immediate action to establish your state's exchange program.
How to talk about state health insurance exchanges:
- State insurance exchanges are of the people, by the people and for the people of each state individually; they have nothing to do with the federal government.
- State insurance exchanges are made up of private insurers who will have to compete with each other to provide the best-priced premiums to attract customers.
- State insurance exchanges empower you to create a program that meets your distinct needs.
- State insurance exchanges represent a distinctly American opportunity to improve our local communities and at the same time help our nation avert a major crisis.