Shopping mall for health insurance

The idea of small businesses and individuals banding together to buy health insurance – thereby increasing their ability to obtain an affordable policy – has kicked around long before health care reform passed Congress.

These new insurance shopping malls, known as ‘’exchanges,’’ make perfect sense. Small firms buying coverage on their own get socked with huge premium increases year after year. Individuals often get shut out of the health insurance game because of limited choices and steep prices.

But pooling small businesses and individuals together – and allowing consumers to choose from a variety of health plans — would greatly improve today’s often harsh insurance marketplace.

Two states offer existing models for health reform’s exchanges that Carrie Teegardin describes in today’s AJC.

The Massachusetts program is heavy on regulation. The state actively solicits bids from insurers and negotiates premiums and benefits that are offered in the ‘’Connector’’ program.

Utah, embracing a freer market, provides an exchange with few rules. Any health insurance company that wants to participate can do so. The state determines the minimum benefits for its exchange, which is available for employers with up to 50 workers.

It will be interesting to see how Georgia shapes its exchange over the next four years. But even if health reform doesn’t survive challenges in the courts and Congress, the idea of a shopping mall for small firms and individuals to purchase health insurance will remain a very attractive option for Georgia to consider.