Health insurance is sky high because we mandate coverage

Out-of-control costs are big gov’t in action, folks

By Dan Juneau

June 21, 2007 at 5:47 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

It is inevitable. Every year, well-meaning people show up at the state capitol pushing legislation that would force all private health insurance plans to cover certain physical or mental conditions.

Over the years, approximately 25 health care coverages have been mandated by our Legislature.

In addition to the mandated procedures, the Legislature has also forced health plans to pay providers whose services were not previously covered under many health insurance policies.

Other laws have expanded the list of "covered individuals" whose medical services will be reimbursed.

When all of the mandated procedures, providers and "covered individuals" are combined, Louisiana has a total of 43 government-mandated coverages which add significantly to the cost of health insurance in Louisiana.

According to data from the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, only 10 states have more government-imposed mandates than Louisiana.

It is difficult to establish an extremely accurate estimate of how much these government-imposed costs are adding to the cost of a typical health insurance policy.

However, taking the mid-range of estimates published by the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, government-mandated coverages in Louisiana could be adding as much as 50 percent to the cost of health insurance policies in the Bayou State.

The burden of health care mandates is death by a thousand small cuts to employers, and often to employees as well.

No single mandate drives a majority of health care insurance purchasers out of the marketplace.

But collectively, they lead to more employers dropping policies, significantly increasing deductibles, requiring employees to pay more of the premiums—or, among employers who currently do not offer health insurance coverage, becoming less likely to do so.

Every year when health care mandate legislation is heard in committees, individuals who are afflicted by conditions that are not mandated to be covered by health insurance policies in Louisiana appear and often make very emotional appeals to legislators. It is very difficult for members of the Legislature to vote against mandates, because they hear from sincere, highly motivated individuals who do have problems. Unfortunately, there is another group of individuals the legislators do not hear from when the question of mandates arises: the individuals who can see their health insurance disappear or become unaffordable due to the escalating cost of health insurance.

In a perfect world where cost is not a factor, it would be righteous and noble to say that any condition that even remotely relates to a person's health or well-being should be covered by health insurance. Unfortunately, we do not live in that perfect world, and cost is a very serious factor in the health insurance equation. Cost escalation due to mandates often results in families who previously had insurance that provided coverage for preventative care and major medical treatments to no longer have that protection. Those families do not appear in legislative committees when the mandates are debated, because they are not yet affected by the consequences of the mandates.

Some in government wonder why employers who do provide health insurance for their employees would oppose a system that would "solve" the problem of the uninsured in America by forcing all employers to provide health insurance coverage. The answer relates directly to the experience of legislatively imposed mandates. Once all employers are forced to be the provider of health insurance coverage, governments would gleefully mandate costlier coverages and pass the costs on to businesses. That is the lesson employers have learned from health care mandates—and it isn't something they will soon forget.

 

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