OPINION: Romney’s Phony Answers to Tough Health Care Questions
High on the list of recommendations in Romney’s health care platform is an idea frequently touted as a silver bullet by conservatives: allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines. Doing so, they say, will increase competition and, consequently, bring down the cost of coverage.
The problem is that no one had done a study to determine definitively whether the across-state-lines idea would work—until now. And the conclusion of that study, conducted by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, is that allowing coverage to be purchased across state lines is much more of a blank than a bullet.
The study also finds that no new federal law is even needed to allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines.
“With or without changes to federal law, states already have full authority to decide whether or not to allow sales across state lines and, if so, under what circumstances,” the study noted.
Of course, you wouldn’t know that from listening to Romney and other politicians who seem to believe than an act of Congress is needed. It isn’t. State legislatures can make it happen whenever they want, but, so far, only six have decided to try it. Georgia, Maine and Wyoming have enacted legislation in recent years to allow out-of-state insurers to sell policies within their borders. Lawmakers in Kentucky, Rhode Island and Washington passed bills requiring their insurance departments to research the idea and determine interest from out-of-state insurers.
The lawmakers who championed the legislation expected their states would be inundated with applications from insurers far and wide eager to sell their policies. But it hasn’t happened. In fact, not a single insurance company has expressed the slightest interest in doing business in any of those six states.
The problem is that the think tanks and politicians haven’t taken the time to understand how health care is delivered in this country—which is locally—and how the insurance industry has evolved.
Only those of us of a certain age can remember the days before managed care when indemnity health insurance policies were the norm. If you had an indemnity policy, you could go to any doctor or hospital and get your claims paid. No more. Just about every insurance policy these days is network-based, meaning your choice of providers is limited. That’s because insurers these days negotiate reimbursement rates with doctors and hospitals in any given market. The more “members” a health plan has, the more clout it has at the negotiating table with providers.