HIAA Sees Continued Slowdown In State Mandated-Benefit Laws
In an era of rising health care costs and increasing numbers of uninsured Americans, state legislatures may be getting the message that mandating benefits harms the system, says an official with the Health Insurance Association of America.
Jeff Gabardi, senior vice president and general counsel with the Washington-based HIAA, says one of the most significant trends in state health insurance initiatives is the slowdown in state mandated-benefit laws.
Indeed, according to statistics compiled by HIAA as part of its 2003 State Legislative Forecast, states adopted only 46 new mandates in 2002.
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This continues a steady decline dating back to 1999, when states enacted 103 mandates.
Gabardi tells National Underwriter the decline in state mandated-benefit laws indicates that state lawmakers are hearing the industrys message about mandates adding to the cost of insurance and the number of uninsureds.
While states may be serving a constituency by enacting a mandate, Gabardi says, for every 1% increase in the cost of health insurance some 200,000 people lose their coverage.
Over time, he says, the impact of mandates adds up.
Indeed, Gabardi says, states are starting to look at mandates in different ways. In some jurisdictions, he adds, discussions of mandates are moving from the legislative arena to advisory committees, where they can be considered away from the glare of politics.
While states are not considering repeal of existing mandates, he adds, it is important that they are slowing down enactment of new mandates.
Looking ahead to 2003, Gabardi says that medical malpractice and liability reform have taken center stage very quickly due to some well-publicized problems.
Indeed, he says, liability reform will be a top priority in at least three states: Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Texas.
Gabardi adds that states are considering and enacting liability reform despite the efforts of trial lawyers.
On the issue of privacy, Gabardi says California could be a bellwether regarding enactment of privacy provisions that go beyond those of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
Indeed, he says, the California Senate Bill S.B. 1 would create one of the toughest privacy standards in the country, going well beyond GLB.
It is also possible, Gabardi says, that privacy might be the subject of a ballot initiative in 2004.
He notes that because of the size of the California market, legislation there sometimes has national impact.
Many insurance companies, according to Gabardi, will make changes nationwide based on California legislation.