Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Health Care CEO On Graham-Cassidy


The health insurance industry has not had many nice things to say about the latest Republican effort to replace the Affordable Care Act. But Dan Hilferty, CEO and president of the Pennsylvania-based Independence Health Group, told us he actually likes some aspects of the Graham-Cassidy bill.

DAN HILFERTY: I think health care is best delivered at the state and local level in collaboration with the federal government.

GREENE: But Hilferty also says he is discouraged that some of the people who gained insurance under Obamacare could lose that insurance under this Republican bill.

HILFERTY: What this basically does is it scuttles a program that has gotten them into the insurance marketplace. So we started something. It was accessible. Now, if we just keep it again - I don't care what you call it - repeal, replace or fix. Let's keep it. Let's sustain the marketplace while we move towards a new program.

Don't just throw these people off the rolls. And in terms of Medicaid, nothing works better for the poor and disabled than a Medicaid-managed care program.

GREENE: OK. It sounds like what you're saying is if you knew that you could wake up tomorrow under Graham-Cassidy and the state of Pennsylvania was able to come up with its own program that worked in a very similar way, you might be happy with that. But there's no guarantee of that. This is going to create some uncertainty that you see as a real problem.

HILFERTY: What I would say, for close to 80 years, we've been providing comprehensive health care coverage for all sorts of people. When you're talking about the exchange population, it's only 6 percent of our business. And then if you throw in the expansion of Medicaid, it gets it up to 9, 10 percent.

So regardless of this bill, we will continue through our employer-base, through our Medicare Advantage programs and our traditional Medicaid program. We'll continue to deliver services to the vast majority of our members.

GREENE: Well, drill down on this for me a bit if you can. Are there some changes to this bill that would make you feel better that you could keep serving those customers?

HILFERTY: Well, I think two things. If you go back and look at the last Senate effort that came very close to passage and in the end missed by a vote - if you look at what was a key component of it, they had built in a transition period where they would fund the subsidies. What are called the CSRs.

They would continue the mandate in place that would encourage the young millennials to enroll. So I would say if there was a hard and fast effort of any legislation, not just this one, that gave a transition period over the next couple of years where the subsidies would be funded, that would be a positive.

And then I would say, as it relates to Medicaid-managed care, that collectively, in a bipartisan way, we work to make sure the program continues to deliver products to as many people as are possibly eligible - number one. And number two, together we look at creating a sustainable pathway.

GREENE: So you've liked some things in some of these previous Republican efforts.

HILFERTY: Yes. Yes. Frankly, Senator Pat Toomey had some terrific ideas...

GREENE: The Pennsylvania Republican, yeah.

HILFERTY: The Pennsylvania Republican. And I always say this isn't a Democrat or Republican issue. It's an issue for the American people. So if you put two great public officials like a Pat Toomey, like a Senator Bob Casey - one Republican, one Democrat - in a room, they could figure out a compromise.

GREENE: What is preventing that at this point, do you think?

HILFERTY: Well, I just - you know, that's a - we read the papers every day, you and I. And we understand that there is such a divide between the parties now that it's going to take a great deal of courage by some folks who have gone to Congress to do right by the country. It's going to take courage to say, you know what, enough of this partisan bickering. Let's figure out how we can go to the middle and move forward.

GREENE: Dan Hilferty, thanks so much for the time. We appreciate it.

HILFERTY: Great. Thank you, David. Take care.

GREENE: He is the president and CEO of Independence Health Group, which provides coverage in 24 states. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.