Sandy Praeger, Kansas insurance commissioner
“Our current health care system, I think, from a cost standpoint, is just unsustainable,” Praeger said.
She said as health costs continue to climb, more people are dropping coverage, which drives up health insurance costs. It’s a spiral that Praeger says can’t continue.
“We’ve got to find a way to get everybody covered and we’ve got to find a way to get the costs under control,” she said. “It means everybody has got to be working together on this.”
She said there are many ways to reduce costs. One is converting medical records from paper to electronic, so information can be transferred easily among health care providers. That reduces tests and office visits.
“That’s just one little piece of it,” she said.
Praeger also said, “If everybody has coverage, they are going to get health care at the appropriate time before they get really sick and in the appropriate location — a doctor’s office versus an emergency room. So, that will help control costs.”
She said more than 50 percent of health care costs are the result of preventable diseases related to bad lifestyles.
“We all have to take personal responsibility to eat right,” she said.
She said the most important component that is being discussed in Washington, D.C., is getting rid of health underwriting, which is the information insurers use to determine the likelihood that someone might file a claim. Such information can include age, pre-existing conditions and occupation.
Praeger said her office often deals with cases where insurance is rescinded because the company digs into someone’s medical history and finds something that he or she didn’t report — although it was an honest mistake on the consumer’s part. If you get rid of underwriting, that problem no longer exists.
“Getting rid of health underwriting would be just a huge step forward in terms of simplifying the process.”
To do that, Praeger said everybody needs to provide health insurance for their families before they have an illness, just like the need to buy homeowner’s insurance before the house is burning. That gets more premium dollars into the system.
An insurance mandate would have to include subsidies for low-wage people, she said.
Also, Praeger said she hopes the federal government doesn’t take over regulation of health insurance.
“As a state regulator, I think our ability to intervene on behalf of those consumers is much more effective than if it’s done at the federal level,” she said. “So, while I think some of these reforms need to occur at the federal level, I think companies still need to be licensed and regulated at the state level because I just think that’s more effective at protecting consumers.”
Kansans weigh in on health care reform
- Have your say.
- Graham Bailey, vice president of public relations, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas
- Rod Bremby, Secretary, Kansas Department of Health and Environment
- Corrie Edwards, executive director, Kansas Health Consumer Coalition
- Jerry Kemberling, Unemployed, Lawrence
- Gene Meyer, CEO/president, Lawrence Memorial Hospital
- Marcia Nielsen, vice chancellor for public policy and planning, Kansas University Medical Center
- Sandy Praeger, Kansas insurance commissioner
- Jon Stewart, Director, LEO Center
- Judy Bellome, executive director of Douglas County Visiting Nurses, Rehabilitation and Hospice Care
- Dr. Alan Cowles, Social Security disability benefits advocate
- Marcia Epstein, director of Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence
- Dr. David Goering, medical director for Health Care Access
- Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care
- Dan Partridge, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department director
- Margie Wakefield, small business owner