Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Oklahoman Editorial April 8, 2008

Wed April 9, 2008

At a premium: Mandate debate needs compromise

The Oklahoman Editorial

In a relatively quiet legislative session dominated by a standstill budget, the issue of health insurance mandates has risen to a level perhaps not seen since the mental health parity controversy during the Keating administration.Supporters of mandates related to autism and clinical trials for new treatment modalities are passionate for
Many are relatives of victims of a disease or condition that would be addressed in a mandate. They are thus highly subjective participants in the debate.

On the other side is the principled opposition, one that we share, to mandates in general because of the effect mandates have on health insurance premiums. Supporters typically say a mandate will add only marginally to insurance costs, thereby negating the argument that mandates inordinately hurt the poorest and uninsured by making policies unaffordable.

Let's say that each mandate adds just 0.5 percent to the cost of insurance. With 40 mandates, that's a 20 percent increase. The point is, mandates must be considered as a whole.

Mandate supporters have found a demon in state Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow. A committee whose agenda he controls is cool to the latest mandate proposals. Peterson has ties to the insurance industry. Is he thus a highly subjective party to the debate?

Perhaps, but isn't that also true of lawyer legislators who routinely vote on tort reform bills and other legislation affecting their profession?

Compromise is possible in this debate, but it will take yielding from both sides. Peterson has a common-sense bill to subject proposed mandates to scrutiny before they become law. He believes, and we agree, that the financial and social impact of a proposed mandate should be studied before the mandate takes effect. Treatments that would be covered under the mandate would be vetted according to their efficacy.

Maybe if mandate supporters would work to enact Peterson's proposal, he would be more amenable to their ideas.

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