Rotary hears from Carper on health care issues

Southern Sussex Rotary heard from invited guest U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper on Thursday, Aug. 27, regarding health care and recent insurance reforms. Carper explained that the idea of larger purchasing pools that the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce put it motion a few years back was something he had talked up and “didn’t forget about.”

He explained that a similar idea had been presented during the health care reform debate that would have allowed people to buy into a large purchasing pool similar to that of federal employees – which, including dependents, has 8 million subscribers. He said such pools create competition and lower prices.

Carper also noted that the federal plan has 3 percent administrative costs, as opposed to much higher rates with other plans.

“You need to focus on what works. And not only provide coverage for the people who don’t have it, but to reduce costs for those that do and get better outcomes. That’s really the heart and soul of health care legislation,” he said.

While that was not the health plan ultimately passed by Congress – rather, health care exchanges in each state will be set up, from which people can select from several products – Carper did say that the National Federal Health Plan would be one of those choices. He also explained that for lower-income people, there would be a sliding-scale tax credit to help with costs.

Carper talked to the group a bit about his meeting with Safeway CEO Steve Burd, whom he sat down to talk with after being told by Burd that his company’s health care costs had not risen in five years.

He explained that the main premise of Safeway’s health care plan is incentivizing people to make healthier choices and charging them when they don’t. Employees voluntarily join the program. The company also provides fitness areas and healthy food choices in the cafeteria.

You can get french fries in the cafeteria and even put gravy on them, or dumplings,” joked Carper, “but you’ll pay extra.” He explained that legislation was offered that would allow employers to provide discounts up to 30 percent for employees who “essentially take better care of themselves,” which would kick in next year.

He also touched on reform to medical malpractice law. Carper explained that, in Delaware, people who want to sue their doctors have to go before a Certificate of Merit Panel.

Carper also referenced the “Sorry Works,” program in Michigan, in which – before malpractice suits can be filed – doctors and patients have to meet first as individuals. The doctor can apologize and take responsibility if they are at fault, and can offer a settlement – and anything said cannot be used against them in a court of law.

He said both states have seen significant reductions in medical malpractice suits in recent years and that other states are looking at health care courts – similar to bankruptcy courts – in which all the judges would hear would be health-care related cases.

Not all Rotary members were pleased with the senator’s explanations about health care legislation.

Dr. Donald Hattier, a local chiropractor, asked where Congress “gets the right to tell us what to do,” regarding mandating coverage.

The senator replied that he “couldn’t site the chapter” but that they needed to do something.

Another Rotary member asked about health insurance being taxed as income. Carper explained that people with “Cadillac plans” will pay taxes on a portion of their coverage.

He also said that the U.S. competes in a worldwide economy and has to try to emulate what already works.

“In Japan, they spend 8 percent of their GDP on health care and get better results. In the U.S.A., we spend 16 percent. Japan can’t be that smart, and we can’t be that dumb. We have to replicate what works to get better results.”

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