"Healthcare insurance is really abysmal in Delaware."
Dr. Julia Pillsbury is running as a Republican against Democrat incumbent Trinidad Navarro for Delaware's seat as Insurance Commissioner. Pillsbury has a lengthy military career followed by civilian work in the medical field.
"I started out when I was a medical student, and my [Military Occupational Specialty] was a medical service officer," she said on WDEL's Rick Jensen Show Tuesday.
She rose to the rank of Captain while conducting work in the Tripler Army Medical Center, Madigan Army Medical Center, and Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center and graduating with degrees from Gwynedd Mercy College and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She transferred into the Air Force and then into civilian work following her service. She's a Chair of the Delaware Medicaid Medical Care Advisory Committee and ran a medical practice in the First State.
"I have been in private practice for the past 30 years--I've run a pediatric practice--and I've watched the health insurance change over time. People have high premiums, high deductibles, and I think that's why you have such a high number of people that don't have insurance," she said.
A lot of those increasing costs, Pillsbury said, come from a lack of competition.
"Delaware was in the 10 states with the least competitive health insurance in every category," she said, citing a recent American Medical Association publication. "They were the least competitive for the exchanges, they were in the least competitive for PPO markets, and they were in the least competitive for commercial health insurance. I feel that's unacceptable. People in Delaware deserve to have a choice... I've been actively involved with health insurance for my employees. I feel that I'm in a good position to offer patients and families in Delaware computation and better rates."
More insurance companies in Delaware would offer better competition, with companies adjusting their offerings to entice potential customers. While Pillsbury said she understands no two states are alike, seeing what works in other small states and trying to find out why some of the health insurance companies don't pursue Delaware as a viable option could lead to changing things that would bring them here.
"I would rather meet with several of the insurance companies," she said, referring to Aetna, who was previously in Delaware as an option but has since backed out. "I would like to know what their interests are, what their problems were, why they left or why they have not been in Delaware. And then I would start looking at smaller plans from other states. Delaware is one state that doesn't allow people to buy insurance outside of the state of Delaware. I'd like to look at the level and understand why Delaware opted to do that and see if that's something that we need to change. I've heard some people say that they found less expensive plans, but when they went to purchase them, and they realize they lived in Delaware, the plan was unable to meet their needs. So I want to look at all the options."
Despite her desire to change what she sees as issues, Pillsbury doesn't understand why the landscape looks as it does currently.
"I honestly cannot explain why rates have increased as much as they have, and why deductibles have increased as much as they have," she said, saying while she understand Affordable Care Act changes led to some increases, it should've been easier for a team to come together and fix those issues, even in a small state.
"I've had a lot of experience in healthcare and healthcare finance," Pillsbury said. "I feel strongly that that experience is invaluable in trying to tackle the health insurance problem that we're having in Delaware."