Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – A Benton optometrist will be part of a state-wide panel to establish insurance exchanges as a part of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Dr. Joe Ellis said he joined the panel to bring insight as both a health care provider and as a small business owner. The Affordable Care Act mandated the creation of insurance exchanges to provide low-cost health insurance to residents who could not obtain health care through their employer.
“The law said states could establish their own insurance exchanges or use a federal exchange,” Ellis said. “I thought it was better for Kentucky to have its own exchange because we better understand the health care needs in our communities.”
Ellis said he appreciates how many existing insurance options are cost-prohibitive for small businesses to offer employees. He added choices for both small businesses and individuals are both costly and limited.
He hopes the insurance exchange commission will be able to create more low-cost options and a greater variety of choice. He said to do so, he wanted insurers to offer plans where customers selected the coverage they wanted at a price they could afford.
Another plan Ellis hopes to create for Kentucky insurance exchange customers is a system of essential benefits included in every plan. Included would be routine screenings and wellness checks to prevent disease instead of the current model that treats disease and conditions once they reach a serious stage. Ellis said this would reduce health care costs.
“I do think prescription drug costs are getting out of hand,” Ellis said. “Medication costs are one of the biggest cost drivers in any health care plan. We’re seeing more patients not taking medications they need due to costs.”
To lower costs of medications, Ellis said he hopes to investigate group purchases of medication to lower costs.
Moving into the future, Ellis said insurance plans may merge to provide health, vision and dental care in one plan.
“I could see vision plans in state exchange plans,” Ellis said. “A lot of diseases like diabetes and hypertension show up in eye care. A plan with vision would allow doctors to treat the disease without causing duplication of care.”
Ellis said he planned to do his best to create an exchange with choices for all budgets, while providing representation for small businesses and his patients.