Health reform must recognize the extensive role of states in U.S. health policy and reconcile national consistency with sub-national diversity. Re-Figuring Federalism: Nation and State in Health Reform's Next Round draws lessons both from federal-state relations in Medicaid and from the experiences of three other federal countries—Canada, Germany and Switzerland. It concludes that universal health coverage is compatible with a federal system, but that the federal government needs to establish central rules of the game.
Designing a Mixed Public and Private System for the Health Insurance Market considers design features of a health care reform proposal that would offer a government-run health insurance plan alongside competing private plans in a government-run insurance exchange. The Medicare program provides a practical guide to the problems and opportunities offered by such a mixed public and private system. Since both public and private plans have inherent advantages and disadvantages, both plans can be offered on a relatively level playing field. Among the items to be considered in creating a level playing field are the benefit package, advertising and consumer information, risk selection and risk adjustment, the choice environment, default enrollment, provider payment rates, and the administrative structure.
Choices about covering the uninsured have implications for the feasibility of different approaches for controlling health care costs, and vice versa. In practice, some combinations may work together better than others and the interplay of different approaches to coverage expansion and cost containment is the focus of Cost Containment and Coverage Expansion. It begins with a brief review of whether coverage expansion and cost controls must go hand-in-hand. It then lays out the menus of commonly proposed coverage approaches and available cost control measures and considers how the two might go together.
The Regulation of Private Health Insurance examines the current role of health insurance regulation and the role that it could play in a reformed health care system. It begins by exploring the nature of health insurance and alternative approaches to regulation. It next considers the current status of state and federal health insurance regulation, both describing the development of health insurance regulation and examining arguments in support of and in opposition to regulatory interventions. Finally, it considers the kind of insurance regulation that will be needed in a reformed health care system, as well as the question of whether authority for insurance regulation should be placed at the federal or state level. It concludes that the best approach would be to develop national standards for health insurance enforced primarily at the state level.
The high administrative costs of the U.S. health insurance system have been a focus of discussion for decades. Simplifying Administration of Health Insurance finds ways to define and classify administrative costs, both of insurers and of other participants in the system, and summarizes the fragmentary estimates of how large these costs are. It discusses current efforts to reduce administrative costs, many of which have focused on standardizing and simplifying transactions among insurers, providers, and employers. Finally, it considers how various reform proposals, whether or not directly targeted at administrative costs, might reduce—or add to—the complexity of the current system.