JEFFERSON CITY _ Missouri's Insurance Department has decided to take a more back-seat role in this year's legislative effort to expand access to health care insurance.
``The need for health-insurance reform hasn't gone away, but we recognize that other groups are taking the lead on it,'' said Randy McConnell, spokesman for the Insurance Department. ``It's just a matter of who's playing what role.''
While the Insurance Department is not as involved in this year's push for health-insurance reform, it is not completely removed from the process, McConnell said.
``We have had input into bills from the private sector and General Assembly members, but there is no specific bill we've drafted internally,'' McConnell said. ``There is no reason for us to duplicate their effort.''
Private sector organizations might have decided to become more involved in developing a plan for health insurance reform to avoid some of the surprises that came last session with the governor's plan.
``Last year, the governor's big overhaul package came like a bolt out of the blue and caught us off guard,'' said Tom Holloway, director of government relations at the Missouri State Medical Association.
``It included far more than we expected, and by the time we got it boiled down to what we could support, it was too late to get it passed,'' Holloway said.
One health-insurance reform bill expected to be introduced in about a week was developed by representatives of the Missouri State Medical Association, the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons and the Missouri Hospital Association. It will be sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Ed Quick, D-Kansas City. A House member is considering the bill, but has not committed yet to sponsoring it in the House, Holloway said.
The bill includes many of the health-insurance reforms proposed in the governor's plan last year. The bill would:
@|Establish a community rating system requiring insurance companies to sell coverage at standard rates by region.
@|Create five standard benefits packages and require all insurers to offer at least one of the plans.
@|Establish an annual 30-day open enrollment period during which insurers would be required to actively market their benefit plans within their service areas.
@|Require insurers to sell to anyone regardless of prior illness or pre-existing conditions.
@|Allow policies to be transferable between jobs.
``The final version of the bill from last year had these reforms at its core, and that's what we're starting with in this bill,'' Holloway said. ``We just decided to be a little more proactive than reactive this time.''