HHS Takes Good First Step but More Action Needed, Says Advocacy Group Communicating for America

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Wayne Nelson, president of advocacy organization Communicating for America, says his group is pleased with the announcement last week by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of new initiatives to make it easier for uninsured Americans to obtain coverage, but the steps "are not as bold or far-reaching as required."

Sebelius announced that starting July 1, the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) which were established as part of the Obama Administration's health care overhaul in 2010, will lower premiums by as much as 40 percent for enrollees in 23 states.  Insurance agents will also begin to receive $100 for each applicant whose enrollment they facilitate. PCIP had been expected to help as many as 4 million uninsured Americans, but thus far less than 15,000 have enrolled. The program received $5 billion in federal funding.

"We issued a white paper that was distributed to the Administration and members of Congress last fall calling for these and other changes," explains Nelson. "These are good steps but are not as bold or far-reaching as required.  Sec. Sebelius should increase the amount paid to agents as well as make it easier to apply by abandoning some of the more onerous enrollment processes.

" In addition,  HHS should begin to experiment with other ways to encourage enrollment, such as discounts for long term enrollment, outreach to ethnic groups and centers of influences, such as trade associations, and allowing the plans to offer enrollees plans with less comprehensive benefits which would be less costly," said Nelson.

He said CA is calling on HHS to issue a weekly scorecard of the number of enrollees in PCIP.  "Even if enrollment doubles or triples, it is a long way from being on target.  Taxpayers need to know that the programs we pay for are achieving the objectives that were set."

Nelson notes that Communicating for America is currently working on a nation-wide study of uninsured individuals to determine what further steps can be taken to increase access and lower the costs of both existing state high risk pools and PCIP high risk pools. CA will present the results of its findings to key Congressional offices and HHS officials later in the summer.

CA has long been involved in support of common-sense solutions, including state and federal risk pools for the medically uninsured.  In 1992, it helped create the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans ( NASCHIP) and has testified many times on the topic of private/public partnerships to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance.

Communicating for America is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization based in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, dedicated to strengthening self-employed individuals and small businesses. For more information on CA, visit their web site at www.communicatingforAmerica.org.

For More Information

Wayne Nelson, President

(612) 819-4629

SOURCE Communicating for America