Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New York health care follies

This blog has noted a number of failed government interventions in health care on the state level. Attempts to expand health care coverage based on a greater government role have met with varying degrees of disaster in Tennessee, Oregon, Maine and Massachusetts.

Now let's turn to New York. While New York has not set up a public option like some of its state brethren, it has relied heavily on regulation to expand access through the concepts of guaranteed access and community rating -- both of which are found in health care legislation before Congress. Peter Suderman looks at the results:
In 1993 the state prohibited insurers from declining to cover individuals with pre-existing health conditions, a policy called “guaranteed issue.” New York also required insurers to charge everyone enrolled in their plans the same premium, regardless of health status, age, or sex, an idea known as “community rating.” The goal was to reduce the number of uninsured by making medical coverage more accessible, particularly to those who don’t have employer-provided insurance.

New York’s reforms haven’t worked out very well, according to a 2009 Manhattan Institute study by Stephen T. Parente, a professor of finance at the University of Minnesota, and Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. In 1994 just under 752,000 individuals were enrolled in individual insurance plans, about 4.7 percent of the nonelderly population. This put New York roughly in line with the rest of the U.S. Today that figure has dropped to just 0.2 percent. By contrast, between 1994 and 2007 the total number of people insured in the individual market across the U.S. rose from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent.

The decline in the number of people enrolled in individual insurance plans, the authors say, is “attributable largely to a steep increase in premiums” because of the state’s regulations. Parente and Bragdon estimate that repealing guaranteed issue and community rating could reduce the price of individual coverage by 42 percent.
Be sure to read the whole thing. Something I find absolutely maddening about the health care debate is how much of what is being proposed has already been tried and failed. We've been down this road before, and the scenery isn't very pretty.

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