A year ago this week, Democrats in Washington gave us ObamaCare, whether we wanted it or not. I would compare it to a big dose of castor oil, if castor oil made you more sick and its price rose nearly every day.
Little about the year-old health law has turned out as promised. A few of its already apparent shortcomings:
While ObamaCare founders, the states are looking for ways to improve their health-insurance markets in spite of the law. Georgia missed one opportunity but may redeem itself yet.
The missed opportunity is one I described at length in this space a few weeks ago: building a health-insurance exchange that works for Georgia, regardless of the federal law. Utah has set an example in this regard, and Georgia was poised to join the Beehive State until complaints from tea party groups gave legislators cold feet.
The tea partyers had good intentions: Like them, I don’t want to end up with ObamaCare in Georgia even if the law is repealed or thrown out by the Supreme Court.
But there’s nothing wrong with a health exchange per se. The devil is in the details, and the Georgia bill (HB 476) would have allowed Georgia to set up an exchange that made sense here. Then, if ObamaCare did hold up, state officials could have dared the feds to tinker with a well-functioning system.
One ObamaCare opponent who debated me on the issue likened that approach to Russian roulette. No, Russian roulette is pinning one’s hopes on either repealing ObamaCare or the prospect that the law will be ruled unconstitutional.
That two-pronged gamble is the real Russian roulette because, if we lose, the feds will come in and build an exchange themselves, without our input.
Gov. Nathan Deal would be wise to proceed with a study of what an exchange in Georgia ought to look like, and to reintroduce similar legislation next year with a clearer picture of where the project is heading.
In the meantime, another state bill would complement those efforts and needs to become law this year.
I’m talking about HB 47, which would allow health insurers in Georgia to sell plans approved in other states. The difference involves coverage mandates — the minimum level of health procedures and services that a plan has to include.
Only 19 states mandate more benefits than Georgia does. Some benefits drive up premiums more than others, and Georgia requires most of the more-costly ones.
But the question is really about choice. Individual consumers in Georgia should have access to a wider array of health plans. (Group plans would be unaffected.)
Some scaremongers warn of an invasion of plans that, to use their examples, wouldn’t cover mammograms or overnight hospital stays for new moms. In fact, those very benefits are among the ones all 50 states require. Let consumers decide the value of other coverages.
States are the right level of government for regulating health markets. Georgia will be better off with these measures even if ObamaCare doesn’t live to see more anniversaries.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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