Legislators leave hearing on insurance market plans with few answers

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JEFFERSON CITY — How many health care insurance plans are offered right now in Missouri? In what regions? What is the status of the individual market? Would it be feasible to combine individual and small group markets?

These are some of the questions Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, had for the insurance providers and hospitals in the state on Wednesday.

But the Interim Committee on Stabilizing Missouri’s Health Insurance Markets was left with few answers as the hearing, announced a week earlier, proved uneventful. Though the hearing room was filled with people who represented insurance providers or hospital associations, no one was prepared to testify. Few attempted, like the Missouri Department of Insurance and the Missouri Hospital Association, but were unable to answer most of Hill’s questions without access to certain data.

The committee’s goal is to provide quality, affordable health care to Missouri residents with the 2018 legislative session quickly approaching.

“We’re in dire straits here for Missourians and making sure they have quality affordable health insurance,” said Hill, chairman of the committee.

Hill said his goal for the organizational hearing was to identify market failures.

“Once we identify market failures, how we can turn it around, how we can make it better, people can have good insurance products available to them,” Hill said. “One plan is not enough. We’ll get there.”

By the end of the year, Hill said he wants to have an idea of what the process would look like to apply for a State Innovation Waiver, and then file legislation during this upcoming session.

In section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act, states are allowed to apply for a State Innovation Waiver to “pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high-quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of the ACA,” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid website.

Alaska, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont have enacted measures related to the waiver, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

The committee will meet two more times before the end of the year, Hill said. The next hearing will be the week after Thanksgiving. Before then, the committee will send insurance providers and hospital representatives a list of questions to prepare.

Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, said the committee needs more data and information before it can move forward and outline a plan of action.

“Unfortunately, there was not a lot of clear direction about what this committee was formed to actually produce, and I think that’s part of the problem,” Stevens said. “I think if people had more clear direction from the chairman prior to this first hearing, that we would have had a lot more substance come out of this first hearing.”

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