The hearing was the second of a four-part series of bipartisan hearings to address the soaring cost of premiums in the individual health insurance market
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, questioned Governor Charlie Baker (R-MA) at a hearing today about ways to fix the nation’s health care system. The hearing was the second in a four-part series on short-term insurance market stabilization.
Governors have hands-on experience regulating the insurance markets through their states’ bureaus of insurance, which gives them key insight that will help the committee develop bipartisan health care solutions. Senator Collins served as the commissioner of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, which oversaw the Maine Bureau of Insurance, from 1987-1992.
During the hearing, Senator Collins noted that one of the keys to reducing health insurance premiums “is broadening the number of people in the individual market.”
Senator Collins asked Governor Baker whether auto enrollment was a practicable alternative to the individual mandate. An auto enrollment provision was included in the Patient Freedom Act Senators Collins and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced earlier this year. The proposal stems from the positive experience employers have had with auto enrolling 401(k) plans.
“We know from the experience with 401(k) plans that if you auto enroll employees, they stay in the plan overwhelmingly,” said Senator Collins. “I think it's 75 percent who do. Whereas if you hand them a packet of information, they never get around to signing up.”
Senator Collins continued, “If the individual mandate were to go away…what do you think of our having an auto enrollment system so that you could get people into insurance plans, perhaps starting with a [low-cost] plan for young people and then allowing them the option of opting out?”
“I’m glad you're thinking about this stuff this way,” Governor Baker replied. “There's a whole bunch of different ways people could nudge people into the market and encourage them to stay in it.”
Governor Baker expressed his support for empowering states to choose the best way to encourage individuals to enroll in health insurance in order to broaden the risk pool and lower premiums, whether it be through auto enrollment, an individual mandate, or another method.
“I really do believe you ought to make that a flexible opportunity and have states do the things that are going to work best in each state rather than trying to come up with one answer at the federal level and apply it in all 50,” said Governor Baker.
Yesterday, Senator Collins questioned state insurance commissioners on ways to increase access to affordable health care coverage. Next week, the committee will meet on September 12 to hear from health policy experts on state flexibility and September 14 to hear from a state insurance commissioner, doctors, and patient advocates.