Arizona's Health Care Freedom

Katie Pavlich

4/19/2011 12:01:00 AM - Katie Pavlich

The Arizona legislature passed a bill last week that, if signed by Governor Jan Brewer, will allow Arizonans to purchase health insurance plans across state lines, opening up competition and lowering premium costs for everyone. The bill will affect 20 percent of Arizona residents and does not affect those on Medicaid and Medicare.

Senate Bill 1593, or the Arizona Interstate Health Insurance Act, will allow consumers to pick and choose from health insurance plans in Arizona and other states. It is the first legislation of its kind in the country. Individuals will be able to choose a plan with health care mandates that fit them best, reducing individual premium costs. In addition, opening up the health insurance market across state lines will allow for those who cannot afford health insurance in Arizona to find an affordable plan in another state that gives them the coverage they need.

Opposition to the bill has said the legislation will "eliminate laws requiring insurers that sell their products to Arizona residents be licensed and regulated by the state Department of Insurance," implying the bill is a deregulation of the health insurance industry all together, which is false. All insurance plans, whether in Arizona or other states, are regulated through the state of origin and SB 1593 protects consumers by giving Arizona the ability to block insurance companies with a history of bad behavior from selling policies to Arizona citizens. According to the Smith Amendment for SB 1593, all litigation claims requiring a court process will take place under the jurisdiction of Arizona. All policies will also be subject to Arizona premium taxes, keeping tax revenue local in order to stimulate the economy. Senate Bill 1593 will also give business owners more options on how to best insure employees and allows businesses expanding to Arizona to keep current health plans from the state they are expanding from.

Not surprisingly, those against the bill say children with autism will be left without coverage simply because autism coverage will no longer be mandated for everyone purchasing a plan. This is because of the different options offered across state lines. Autism coverage will no longer be mandated to those who do not need it, but does not mean those with autism or parents of autistic children will be unable to find affordable health coverage. In fact, opening up the market for health insurance gives families with autistic children and adults with autism a greater chance of receiving affordable coverage. The same goes for prenatal, diabetic and chiropractic care. Specific types of medical care won't necessarily be mandated to consumers who don't want or need the those types of health care.

The Arizona Republic editorial board is urging Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill, calling it short sighted, saying it is a “poorly conceived bill that could let health-care insurers drop coverage for autism treatment, postnatal care and some cancer drugs,” adding, “Brewer should turn down Senate Bill 1593, which would take Arizona into uncharted territory in health insurance. The bill would allow out-of-state companies to write health-insurance policies in Arizona.

The goal is worthy: increased competition and choice. But there are too many uncertainties about how this would play out in the real world, including jurisdiction over disputes. This is a proposal to explore at the regional or national level, not as a one-state experiment.”

But insurers aren’t dropping any of the coverage mentioned, the bill simply allows consumers to purchase a plan with coverage they will use and need. Those who don’t need postnatal or autism coverage shouldn’t be mandated to purchase it anyway, and allowing the purchase of plans across state lines gives individuals better options to meet their health care coverage needs. SB 1593 allows for more efficient, affordable and specialized plans instead of a one size fits all option, which has been proven to be inefficient and expensive.

Senate Bill 1593 is sitting on Governor Jan Brewer's desk awaiting signature.