by George Stadtlander, Chief Managed Care Officer, Medical Mutual of Ohio

Medical Mutual of Ohio’s view of healthcare reform

Buckeye Farm News

Editor’s Note: Medical Mutual of Ohio, as a valued partner of Ohio Farm Bureau, is invited to express its views on important issues of the day.

As healthcare reform legislation makes it way through Congress, you should know that Medical Mutual of Ohio is not opposed to reform. We agree that some sort of reform, which will affect rural Ohio as much as urban Ohio, is necessary.

Medical Mutual has worked closely with Governor Ted Strickland on open enrollment issues and with members of the Ohio congressional delegation in Washington on reform measures.

Not only have we demonstrated a willingness to insure more people, but we also support eliminating pre-existing conditions, eliminating gender discrimination, and we are in favor of rescinding policies only in cases of fraud, not oversight.

However, our greatest concern and one in which we are staunchly opposed is a public option. How do private insurance companies compete with an entity (U.S. government) which makes laws and prints money? A government-run plan could eventually force private insurance companies out of business.

If a public option becomes law, an inevitable cost shift could result in higher premiums. No doubt, there will be an increase due to taxes, fees and mandates imposed on insurers. This represents the greatest threat to the health insurance industry as we know it.

Contrary to popular belief, the public option will not cover everyone and the taxpayer’s cost will be enormous. We cannot increase the number of insured by 30 million and not expect to see the cost passed along to uninsured consumers, nor can we expect the states to dramatically increase their Medicaid rolls without seeing certain programs such as education cut or state taxes increased.

Not only is the public option price tag astronomical, the quality of care is drastically diminished. It’s merely a matter of simple math. You cannot increase the number of insured by 30 million and expect a patient to have the same access to medical care. More patients and the same numbers of doctors means longer wait times for an appointment, longer wait times for surgical procedures, more time spent in waiting rooms and less time spent with the doctor. The quality of care cannot help but suffer and the patient will absorb that change in the decreased quality of care they receive.

Another hot-button issue is mandatory health insurance and the idea of penalizing individuals who do not buy it. Ironically, the proposed penalty tax is so small that the end result will be the same as not requiring people to buy insurance. On the other hand, if people go out and buy insurance once they are already sick, private insurance premiums will skyrocket.

Why also is there so little being said about the overall cost of health care delivery in the reform discussion? Yet another major issue which needs to be addressed.

The government’s proposed alternatives will increase, rather than reduce the cost of health care delivery. That’s why proponents of government-operated healthcare avoid discussion of this topic.

Another huge issue in this debate is tort reform. There have been proposals for comprehensive tort reform that would reduce the cost of delivery, but they have been widely ignored.

The bottom line is that the Medical Mutual has built its business and reputation on excellent service, innovation, leadership and responding to the needs of its business partners and customers.

With or without reform in the New Year, we strongly feel that Medical Mutual will continue to adhere to these principles and serve all of its Ohio customers with the same quality care as we have for the past 75 years.

I would urge you to stay informed and get as much information as you can about healthcare reform and become engaged in this debate. Let your congressman and senator know how you feel. Your voice is very important.

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