Panel of California Health Care Experts Discusses Future of Health Insurance
David Lawrence, outgoing CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals; James Robinson, a professor of health economics at the University of California-Berkeley; and Jay Gellert, president and CEO of Health Net Inc., addressed the future of health insurance during a panel discussion last Friday in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation and the Alliance for Health Reform. Lawrence, who will retire on May 1 after 10 years as Kaiser's CEO, said that the aging of the baby boom generation will have a "dramatic impact" on the medical care delivery system as it increases the rate of people with chronic illnesses. He added that the current health care system is not "appropriately organized" to deal with such an increase, in part because while the rate of scientific discovery has been "extraordinary," new technology is not being moved efficiently into medical practice. Robinson said that in order to deal with increasing costs, the health care industry is moving toward providing a limited number of benefits for a broad range of people. "The benefits package is not going to cover everything because ... it's too expensive," Robinson said. He added that employer-sponsored health plans could begin to resemble 401(k) pension plans, with employers offering a limited but diverse number of benefit options managed by insurers. Gellert agreed with Lawrence's and Robinson's prediction of a more "consumer-driven" health care system, adding that under such a system there would be a need for insurers to "actively engage the consumer" (Jason Baker, California Healthline, 4/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.