Ask any small business owner and most individuals what their number one concern is; and beyond question its access to affordable health insurance. Above taxes, regulation and future employment, it’s become our greatest worry. While this issue has been a foundational rallying cry for some years, why then has the New Hampshire legislature been reluctant to solve it? While this one answer may not surprise anyone, for me as a small business owner, I still find it proof of the down side to special interests and traditional establishment politics.
While there is much we can do to improveoverall access and opportunity to find more affordable health insurance in New Hampshire, the legislature has historically balked by creating special exceptions for large employers and political sub divisions, but has largely ignored small businesses and individuals. As a Senator, I believe we need to correct this mistake through passage of Senate Bill 150, as amended by myself and Majority Leader Senator Jeb Bradley.
Today we are facing many concurrent factors which continue to drive up our healthcare costs, but before we address this one current discriminatorypractice in government, we have to understand how we got here.
Anyone who has been a small business owner for years remembers when, not that long ago, we had literally a plethora of insurance companies bidding to gain our trust and business. It was a competitive market with many carrier choices and through offering a bevy of cafeteria style plans, most could find something they could afford while still meeting their needs.
During the past 15 years, local government has imposed many changes to insurance, from requiring the pricing model to morph into a same price for every plan mentality to creating a whopping 43 individual mandates in New Hampshire, making us one of the most heavily mandated and consequently one of the most expensiveStates in America for health insurance.
What is often not being discussed is how New Hampshire is playing favorites with health insurance. In our State today, if you own or work for a company with over 50 employees you are not necessarily required to comply with all the expensive mandates or be forced to buy locally. Similarly, if your company “self-funds” its health insurance (where really large operations don’t actually buy insurance, they just pay the bill out of cash flow) like our State Government, again, they are not mandated to comply with all of our State regulations. Being exempted from state mandates or opening up purchasing sources for more competition can make the cost of insurance much more affordable.
So in the end, today, only individuals and small companies are required to purchase only the most expensive health insurance products available in our state. I’m not sure how you feel about it, but if you are a small employer or individual looking for insurance, this should make you pretty upset.
But, we can fix thiswith the support of the Senate, House and Governor. Senate Bill 150, as amended, will for the first time in decades allow both in state and out of state companies to offer multiple health insurance plans to everyone and not just the economically privileged. As a stabilizing condition, each company will also be required to offer a plan which encompasses all the current mandates as presently required so for the first time, we will actually be able to compare the true cost of mandates on overall policy costs.
Knowing today that annual health insurance costs are increasing with double digit regularity, we have an obligation as legislators to enact every opportunity as reasonably can be to lower costs and insure affordable health insurance is available to all. By encouraging the most competitive market possible, inclusive of a broad cafeteria of insurance plans where one can opt for plans from the Cadillac to the Pinto of models, we can work to lower costs and expand just how many people actually have health insurance coverage in our State. While this one Bill will not solve every factor we have in New Hampshire with excessively expensive insurance, it’s a start and with continued effort we can focus on other issues to reduce costs and increase availability of insurance. Now isn’t that what we should be trying to do?
Senator Andy Sanborn(R) – Henniker is Vice Chairman of the Commerce Committee.