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Shrinking competition of health insurance companies is contributing to rising health costs

December 5, 2001
By: Steve Ahern
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The chairman of the Missouri Senate's Insurance Committee said shrinking competition of health insurance companies is contributing to rising health costs.

Sen. Larry Rohrbach, R-California, made his comments after a special Senate committee heard hours of testmioney from representatives of various heealth-care interests.

"We need to see what we can do about increasing the competition of health insurance companies throughout our state," Rohrbach said. Keeping this open competition in place for providers will have a drastic effect on how much choice Missourians will have."

Scott George, spokesman for Missouri National Federation of Independent Business, said that higher deductibles and co-payments result in increased pressure on wages.

"If we increase the pay, it is just taken away by higher premium costs that force us to raise the deductibles and co-pays," George said.

He also said that as the rates increase, so does the possibility of not being able to afford health insurance.

"Everytime we raise co-pays, it leads to the potential for more uninsured Missourians," George said.

Ron Meyer, spokesman for Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHP), said that rising costs can be attributed to prescription drugs and payments to providers, along with the legislative mandates at the federal state and local levels.

"To drive the costs down, we need to make the individual a part of the process and get them involved in the system," Meyer said.

He noted that no changes could occur over night.

"There are no silver bullets," Meyer said. "These are long-term concerns."

Rohrbach agreed.

"We don't expect to change the course of human events, Rohrbach said. "We're not going to lower prices."

Rohrbach said that he will look to craft legislation that will make more information available to consumers about policies, review the legislative mandates, and determine whether managed care has an adequate network of providers or whether it restricts competition.

"We'll see where tommrrow we'll take us. There's really a lot of concern. There are some reasonable ideas that I think may have some viability," Rohrbach said.