Friday, January 2, 2009

Gumm power: Coverage blowup may have market solution

The Oklahoman Editorial
Published: January 2, 2009

Oklahoma’s uninsured problem is a ticking time bomb. One lawmaker thinks that only by adding an autism treatment coverage mandate will an explosive conflict be defused.

The conflict is between the view that coverage mandates add to the uninsured problem and the view that mandates should be legislated whenever enough people want them.

We hold with the former view, as do many Republicans in the Legislature. State Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, doesn’t agree and is again championing an autism mandate.

When a major insurance firm announced Monday that it will voluntarily add autism treatment coverage, Gumm was dismissive, saying it was an attempt to "put a pin back in the grenade” and block or delay his mandate bill.

We don’t doubt that Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced the mandate as part of a business strategy. But to dismiss this gesture as a political gimmick is odd.

Gumm wants to help the parents of autistic children. Apparently, the insurer also wants to help them. The difference is that Gumm wants to force all insurers to cover the treatments and to raise premiums by whatever amount it takes to maintain profitability.

The senator is skeptical that the coverage will be adequate. Blue Cross said the coverage "won’t dramatically increase premiums.” How "dramatically” would Gumm’s mandate raise premiums? We don’t know.

Why not wait and see what the coverage provides and how much it costs before blowing up at a free-market decision to increase coverage?

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