Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plan Would Mandate Health Insurance

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plan Would Mandate Health Insurance

Article excerpt

BY 1999, all Missourians should be required to have health insurance, just as they must have auto insurance to drive a car.

That's the recommendation of a group appointed by Missouri Health Department Director Coleen Kivlahan.

The group, nicknamed Show Me Health Reform, issued its report earlier this month. The report says 10.7 percent of Missourians, or about 550,000 people, lacked health insurance in 1992.

Under the Show Me plan, people without employer-based benefits could get state subsidies to buy insurance. The subsidy money - $240 million a year - would come from a surcharge on health insurance. A consultant estimated each Missourian would pay an extra $64 a year.

Kivlahan wants the Missouri Legislature to deal with the issue now rather than wait for Congress to act on President Bill Clinton's health-care plan.

But if legislators balk at the suggestions for comprehensive reform, the report gives them another option: It recommends some "building blocks" to improve the system's foundation.

For example, Kivlahan says, she wants to "make the insurance system more equitable." The report calls for standardized coverage at "modified community rates." That means, she said, rates would vary based on age, gender and geography - but not an individual's health history.

Gov. Mel Carnahan is studying the report but has yet to decide which parts he will push in the Legislature next year. First, he will seek public comment on the plan at three hearings, including one tentatively scheduled for Dec. 16 in St. Louis.

The report leaves some details purposely vague because no consensus has developed. For example, it says employers would have to provide health insurance unless they were "financially distressed," but it does not define that term.

Kivlahan says that section is in flux. The report is more clear about employers who now provide insurance. …

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