Health Reform—Are You Keeping Up?

by Sara Teppema, SOA Health Staff Fellow

Predicting the future is easy.  It’s trying to figure out what’s going on now that’s hard.
— Fritz R. S. Dressler

Sara Just when I thought we were getting close to some sort of convergence on a health reform bill, Massachusetts elected a Republican to fill Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat, disrupting potential filibuster power of Senate Democrats.  What does this mean for health reform, and for SOA members?  I wasn’t sure before the Jan. 19 election, and I really don’t know right now (but I plan to call my friends at the American Academy of Actuaries shortly to get the “inside the Beltway” scoop). 

I do know that actuaries have been working hard to understand and inform this debate since President Obama’s inauguration in early 2009.  How are we all, as actuaries, participating?  Read on for a few of the profession’s contributions.

  • Many SOA members contributed to our e-book on “Visions of the U.S. Health Care System.” This unique research project showcases the wide range of ideas on various elements of the existing — and future — health care system.
  • Volunteers from the Academy and SOA collaborated on three joint work groups that combined research (in the form of modeling), with policy to present reports on the actuarial implications of specific provisions included in the legislation.  These reports included:
    • a letter to the Senate HELP committee on the CLASS Act
    • a report estimating the range of startup costs that would be necessary for a co-op or Public Plan option (assuming a “level playing field”)
    • a report on the quantitative and qualitative impact of the excise tax on high-cost health plans (the so-called “Cadillac Plan” tax)
  • The Academy recently released a comment letter to House and Senate leadership outlining the actuarial viewpoint of key issues in the two bills.  They have also initiated a newsletter to Academy members.
  • The Office of the Actuary of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been busy with analyses of various pieces of the health care legislation. You can check out their analyses of the Senate Bill and the House Bill on its webpage, as well as its recent report on National Health Expenditures.
  • And hopefully all of you, especially those working in the health area, are keeping up-to-date through various news sources.  Many organizations provide a daily or weekly summary of health reform articles published in several sources.  Some of my favorites are the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Daily News Digest, the Kaiser Health News and the Health Affairs Blog

The SOA is partnering with the Academy and the Conference of Consulting Actuaries to help keep you informed going forward.  A series of audiocasts is in the works, with the first one taking place on Feb. 9. (Register here!)

Be sure to watch the next few issues of The Actuary for a series of articles on health reform, focused on the broad topics of access, cost/efficiency, and financing/funding.  The series will summarize the ideas of many people envisioning the ideal health care system designed by actuaries. (If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at steppema@soa.org.)

As always, we welcome your thoughts and ideas on research and education around health reform.  In what additional ways do you think actuaries should play a role in the ongoing health reform discussions and debate?

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One response to "Health Reform—Are You Keeping Up?"

  • Mary Pat Campbell says:

    It seems to me most of the discussion on health care financing bills [none is much about changing health care per se, but how it’s paid for] is pure politics, and the numbers and analysis aren’t useful except to the extent someone can use them as props.

    I’m not saying actuaries shouldn’t put out serious analysis, as this might help create a foundation for later efforts, just that we should have a good idea how our work is likely to be used right now.

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