Piggybacking on Max’s disappointment from last night’s "debate" on healthcare, this WSJ article sheds light on an issue largely ignored by our gubernatorial candidates last night: health insurance mandates.
"A health-insurance "mandate" is a legislative requirement that an insurance company or health plan cover (or offer coverage for) common — but sometimes not so common — health- care providers, benefits and patient populations."
Our own Chloe Gossage has written about North Carolina’s mandate policy. According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, NC is tied for imposing the 14th most insurance mandates among US states. Some mandates include pastoral counseling, marriage therapists, and birthing centers/midwives (keep in mind, these mandates are required of all insurance plans, even children).
Want to know part of the reason why your insurance is so expensive, and why a growing number of people decide they can no longer afford private insurance? Mandates is a good place to start:
"Although most mandates will have a relatively small impact when taken individually, it’s the cumulative effect that drives up the cost of coverage. It’s like telling people they must have a "Cadillac plan" loaded with options. Cadillacs are nice, but not everyone can afford one. And when people can’t afford coverage, they join the ranks of the uninsured"
Mandates not only drive up premiums, they also deny consumers access to plans from other states – because no two states have the same combination of mandates. Some states have finally started to recognize this and have developed alternatives:
"Fortunately, a few states are recognizing that mandates make health insurance more expensive. At least 10 states now permit mandate-lite policies, which allow individuals to purchase a policy with fewer mandates and so are more tailored to their needs and financial situation. And there are now at least 30 states that require a mandate’s cost to be assessed before it is implemented."
Unfortunately for us, North Carolina legislators have not adopted any policies to allow its citizens access to mandate-lite (or "flexible benefits") plans; or out of state plans. These measures would go a long way towards making health insurance more affordable, and inspire greater competition and innovation in the way insurance companies provide coverage.
Let’s hope some of the gubernatorial candidates figure this out before its too late.