The Dallas Morning News recently reported that President Obama has proposed for the federal government to regulate all health insurance premiums in an effort to regulate price increases. With Texas health insurance and other states’ premiums continuing to increase as more and more people become uninsured, this proposal suggests that the federal government should review all premiums in order to stop cost increases the government believes are unnecessary. Though price increases must be addressed, should the federal government be the final arbiter of health insurance premiums?
In Texas, the Department of Insurance does not routinely review health insurance premium increases unless a complaint is brought before them. Therefore, it’s argued that Obama’s proposal could protect many insured citizens from unnecessary and inflated health insurance premium costs. However, each state differs in which health insurance carriers, plans, and benefits are available. Paired with the fact that health insurance carriers are confined to only sell within state lines, how can the federal government adequately determine if a premium increase is unreasonable for the citizens of a particular state, much less regulate those that are deemed unreasonable?
Rather than spending more money on further regulation, how about some measures that would actually lower health insurance costs? Measures like deregulating health insurance across state lines, so that market competition can naturally lower costs; or imposing tort reform to cut down on junk lawsuits, like we’ve done here in Texas; or increasing accessibility to health care, through more options like Texas health savings accounts and other consumer driven health plans that empower consumers to take control of their health care costs.
American health care reform cannot happen overnight, but until the right questions are asked, the wrong answers will continue to be proposed.