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May 14, 1998 

Citing new PPI report, Council battles to control health care costs

The Business Council is waging a multi-front battle against proposals that would drive up health-care costs and make it harder for employers to afford health coverage for workers.At the urging of trial lawyers and other special interest groups, the Legislature is considering a number of anti-HMO bills. Some would allow new types of lawsuits against HMOs, employers and health insurers; others would require many specific forms of coverage in all health-care plans.The Public Policy Institute, The Business Council's research affiliate, released a report May 5 saying managed care is improving the overall quality of health care and restraining costs.The report, Managing With Care, says that proposed "reforms" of managed care in New York could drive up health-care costs by billions of dollars and leave thousands more New Yorkers with no health insurance at all.The cost savings created by managed care make possible health insurance coverage for an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 New Yorkers who would otherwise be uninsured, the report says."High health-care costs are already a problem - especially in the Empire State," the report said. At last count, those costs were third-highest among the 50 states, and 22 percent above the national average. Largely because of these costs, the proportion of uninsured residents rose in New York at more than four times the national average from 1991 to 1996. The state's top health-care priority should be to make it possible for more private employers to provide coverage for their employees, the report says. To do that, it says, leaders in Albany should act to drive needless costs out of the health-care system and give employers more options in providing coverage - including a "foundation" plan that would provide basic coverage at a lower price than is now available. The Council joined other organizations in opposing proposed mandates to cover, for instance, treatment for mental illness and contraceptives.

"Resisting the temptation to add more mandated benefits in health-care coverage is a key step to enhancing affordability for employers and individuals," Elliott A. Shaw, Jr., The Council's director of government affairs, wrote in a letter to Governor Pataki and legislative leaders.