NPR Examines Catastrophic Care Provision in Health Care Plan of Democratic Presidential Nominee Sen. John Kerry
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Wednesday examined a provision of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry's (Mass.) plan to reduce health care spending by transferring a portion of employers' catastrophic health care costs to the government -- "one of the few new ideas in health care this year" (Rovner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 9/29). Kerry has proposed that the federal government assume 75% of catastrophic health care costs, which his campaign estimates would help reduce health insurance premiums by 10% (California Healthline, 9/10).
Sarah Bianchi, Kerry's domestic policy adviser, said the plan is based on a "fundamental tenet" of health care that most costs come from a small number of high-cost patient cases. Bianchi said that to be eligible for the catastrophic care benefit under Kerry's plan, employers would be required to offer health insurance to all employees, provide disease management for employees with chronic conditions and pass savings from health insurance costs on to workers.
Joseph Antos, a health care scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said that although a health care premium rebate subsidy would "absolutely" lower health care premiums, Kerry's plan "chang[es] the label on the costs" by substituting tax dollars for funding from employers and workers, rather than reducing actual health care costs. Antos added that Kerry's plan would also involve the federal government "more intimately" in the delivery of private health care services. The NPR segment also includes comments from Kerry and Jeff Lemieux, executive director of Centrists.org ("All Things Considered," NPR, 9/29). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.