Friday, January 11, 2008

Proposed Amendment to Ban Insurance Mandates

The January 10, 2008 Rocky Mountain News has this interesting story on a proposed Colorado state constitutional amendment which would ban the state government from mandating health insurance. This would essentially stop the state from imposing any kind of Massachusetts-like health plan in Colorado. Here is the article:
Mandatory health plan participation opposed

By David Montero, Rocky Mountain News, January 10, 2008

No one would be required to participate in a public or private health care plan under a proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution.

Jon Caldara and Linda Gorman of the conservative-leaning Independence Institute are proposing the amendment and will meet with the Colorado Legislative Council staff later this month to discuss it.

The amendment, which Caldara wants on the November ballot, would not allow the state to mandate coverage for all its residents.

Coloradans would also not be denied the right to purchase private health insurance in any other state, and the proposal would allow people the option to purchase health coverage from out-of-state providers.

More than 790,000 people in Colorado are living without health insurance.

Gov. Bill Ritter has said it is one of his top priorities to find a way to reduce the number of uninsured, and a Blue Ribbon panel will make recommendations on how to do that to the General Assembly at the end of the month.

One of the recommendations from the panel is to mandate that every legal resident of Colorado have at least minimum health coverage - with an enforceable penalty if residents try to drop out.

The state currently spends more than $30 billion on health care, and the commission studied four plans and crafted a fifth in an attempt to reform some of the system's shortcomings.

Mandating coverage is not needed, according to Gorman, who sat on the Blue Ribbon panel, was one of three members who voted against its recommendations and who wrote a dissenting report.

There were 27 commissioners and 24 voted to approve the recommendations.

"We have a lot of experiments going on that are sort of intellectual fads, and one of those is requiring everyone to purchase health insurance," she said.

"We think that's wrong. There are more important things than health insurance - a car, a job - and some people are responsible enough to pay cash for their health insurance, and they have a right to do that. But the government should not require it."

But Bill Lindsay, the chairman of the panel, said there was a simple reason that the politically disparate body agreed to make mandated coverage a recommendation.

"The reason is what we see in the marketplace is that the market for health insurance isn't working," Lindsay said.

He also found the idea that people would pay cash for services to be unrealistic.

"The notion that people would pay cash for services is ludicrous because of the cost of health care," he said.
Lindsay is, of course, wrong for blaming the market for the fact that health insurance isn't working. Our biggest problem is that we don't have a free market but instead a massively distorted market caused by years of ill-considered government regulations. It is because of the government that people can't afford reasonable health insurance. The solution isn't more government, but removing the government restrictions and letting the free market actually work.

I haven't read the text of the proposed amendment yet, but I support both elements reported in the story -- i.e., banning insurance mandates and allowing residents to purchase insurance across state lines. Both would be good steps in the right direction.