NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 29, 2008

Florida has about 3.8 million people without insurance, or about 21 percent of the population, the fourth-highest rate in the country.  Last week, Gov. Charlie Crist (R) succeeded in moving an innovative reform through the state legislature.  The "Cover Florida" plan hopes to improve those numbers by offering access to more affordable policies.  As even Barack Obama says, the main reason people are uninsured isn't because they don't want to be; it's because coverage is too expensive.

But the Florida reform, which both houses of the legislature approved unanimously, renounces Obama's favored remedy: It nudges the government out of the health-care marketplace:

  • Insurance companies will be permitted to sell stripped-down, no-frills policies exempted from the more than 50 mandates that Florida otherwise imposes, including for acupuncture and chiropractics.
  • The new plans will be designed to cost as little as $150 a month, or less.

Gov. Crist observed that state regulations increase the cost of health coverage, and thus rightly decided to do away with at least some of them.  It's hard to believe, but this qualifies as a revelation in the policy world of health insurance, says the Wall Street Journal.   The new benefit packages will be introduced sometime next year and include minimum coverage for primary care and catastrophic expenses for major illness.

Critics are already saying that, without mandates, the plan won't guarantee quality of care.  That's purportedly why the states have imposed more than 1,900 specific-coverage obligations.  But invariably mandates are the product of special-interest lobbying, says the Journal.  Health care providers -- not consumers -- are always asking for tighter regulation, because they profit from making everyone subsidize generous plans that cover, say, podiatry or infertility treatment.  Given the choice, consumers might choose policies that cover some services but not others.

Source: Editorial, "The Florida Revelation . . ." Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2008.

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