by ANDREW GREMEL, J.D.
The Gremel Group
While health care reform has been at the forefront of our public debate these past months, the underlying issues have been plaguing business owners and individuals for well over a decade. As an independent insurance and employee benefit firm, we are keeping a close eye on developments coming out of Washington and Lansing alike. This week has been full of news related to various proposals.
To say that health care reform is confusing and controversial would be an understatement for sure. At the core level, we are dealing with decisions involving life and death, privacy, the distribution and redistribution of resources as well as our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy. Our firm and our colleagues are often asked for our take on what is evolving in Washington. Here are some of my random thoughts on the current situation:
The Gremel Group agrees with many of the reform ideas that President Obama presented recently to the joint session of Congress. Reigning in health care costs so that more Americans can afford health insurance needs to be the key driver of any comprehensive health care reform package.
We strongly support President Obama’s proposal to eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions and provide tax subsidies for low-income individuals and small-business owners who cannot afford to offer health insurance to their employees. These market-driven sensible reforms will go a long way in controlling costs and improving access to the health care system.
We are also encouraged by President Obama’s remarks on the need for meaningful medical malpractice reform. The Department of Human Services estimated that medical liability and defensive medicine reforms alone could save the health care system up to 500 billion dollars.
While we continue to disagree about the need for a government-run public plan, we were very heartened by the President’s clear willingness to compromise on this issue. A public option may seem like a clever way to expand insurance coverage and lower costs, but our existing public options prove that another government-run health plan will only raise the cost of private insurance and crowd out private alternatives. The pattern of systematically underpaying doctors and hospitals through the Medicare and Medicaid programs have raised the average family’s premiums by $1,800 a year, and a public option will only exacerbate this problem—and make health insurance more expensive.
I believe Americans want our elected officials to work in a bipartisan fashion to forge real solutions to reduce costs, improve quality and expand access and choice. Most Americans like their private health insurance coverage and want health reform to strengthen and build upon what is working, and address those areas where there are shortcomings.
One thing that we all can do to help curb costs is to encourage our lawmakers to engage in a healthy debate on the costs associated with direct-to-consumer advertising by Big Pharmacy. While the media has been instrumental in leading the charge on much of the health care reform discussion, we cannot count on the broadcast media and cable news to focus on this issue. For rather obvious reasons, this issue will need to be raised by the people, through their elected representatives.
The time has come for our country to make the difficult decisions we have been avoiding for decades. We hope that the individual and business communities will continue to work with the Administration, members of Congress and stakeholders to bring the real-world consumer perspective to this debate. We all need to share our experience to help enact sensible, bipartisan health care reform, because insuring America is in everyone’s best interest.
Andrew Gremel is a principal of The Gremel Group, a Rockford Michigan-based insurance and employee benefit firm. He has a degree in economics from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of Wayne State University Law School. Mr. Gremel is a member of the National Association of Health Underwriters and the past president of the Grand Rapids Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. He has 25 years experience in the employee benefits industry, providing businesses and individuals with comprehensive, cost-competitive health insurance plans while developing long-lasting relationships based on mutual trust and educated decision-making. Gremel invests substantial time in evaluating the industry and insurance products, advising his clients and legislators on cost-savings opportunities.