Bill a small but important win in fight for affordable insurance - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Bill a small but important win in fight for affordable insurance

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Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2005 9:39 pm | Updated: 9:28 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., is justifiably crowing about a small but significant victory in his long-running fight to unburden the overly restricted health-insurance industry, and thus reduce the coverage gap by bringing premiums down.

Congress this week passed his bill to help states underwrite part of the costs of covering high-risk patients. Some states have such high-risk insurance pools, but Arizona is among those that don’t. Shadegg’s bill provides some federal aid to encourage states like Arizona to create such pools, and additional funds to help cover losses.

It’s one component of a multi-pronged approach to applying market-based solutions to the health-coverage gap that Shadegg has been pushing for years. The most significant is his Health Care Choice Act that would end the disgraceful prohibition on interstate sales of health-insurance policies.

Yes, yes, we've heard all the scare stories about the horrors that would befall hapless consumers if they were given the right to purchase their health insurance in a truly open market. We marvel at how such stories can be taken seriously in a country where most goods and services are bought and sold on the open market.

Let’s be honest. States have been able to preserve what seems to us a clear violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution because state lawmakers and bureaucrats love the power it gives them, and because many health care providers profit from the captive market many of the state regulations bestow upon them.

But consumers, and companies that provide employee medical benefits, end up paying for coverage that many individuals and families don’t want or need.

If, for example, you’re young and single, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a policy that includes prenatal services. If you don’t want or need chiropractic coverage, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

But as it stand now, state legislatures make those decisions — not you. That’s not right. And it drives up premium rates, widening the insurance coverage gap.

Shadegg's Health Care Choice Act would end this anti-consumer ban on interstate trade of health-insurance policies. His bill would let you get on the Internet and purchase the policy that meets your individual or family needs.

That is as it should be. Companies around the country could compete for your business, with policies tailored to your specific needs and wants, with prices to match your budget. That’s what the free market does best, and that’s why Shadegg’s bill, which passed a critical committee vote this week, should become law.

If some scofflaw insurance company tries to fleece consumers, then law enforcement should land on them hard. Throw the creeps in jail. But don’t use the prospect of such isolated abuses as an excuse to kill a long overdue reform of health-insurance regulation that would benefit millions of consumers.

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