The next step in closing the escape hatches from Colorado’s government mandate health coverage prison is House Bill 22-1269. A mean-spirited bill, it requires that health sharing groups operating in other states report to the Colorado Commissioner of Insurance even if just one Colorado resident is a member.
Established health sharing groups were exempted from the Obamacare mandates. People in these groups donate stipulated monthly amounts to pay for other members’ health expenses. Their donations may be routed directly to a member who has asked for help. Generally limited to extraordinary expenses rather than routine care, sharing payments are not guaranteed and the amount of sharing per condition may be explicitly limited. The payments are not tax deductible. Christian religious belief may be required. Some groups bar both smokers and illegal drug users, as well as prospective members with certain pre-existing conditions.
These groups mind their own business, impose no charges on Colorado residents, and have not been the source of any reported problems. They have provided help with health care expenses for people who could no longer afford to purchase their own coverage once Obamacare ended health insurance in favor of prepaid health care at ruinous rates.
So, why do Colorado legislators think that health sharing plans are so harmful that they want to impose substantial regulatory costs on their members and spend an estimated $100,000 a year compiling a report on the data the plans will provide, assuming they do not place a ban on Colorado members?
The answer is clear once one understands the thirty-year effort to put every bit of Colorado health care financing and delivery under state control. In the early 1990s, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President, Dr. Steven A Schroeder, believed that the United States had “overdeveloped its medical capacity” and that the US had a “surfeit of medical technology.” Annoyed that insured patients “seldom have to wait for care, urgent or elective” his goal was to use the Foundation’s nearly $7 billion in assets to impose a government run health care system like those in Canada and Europe on the US.
After failing at the federal level with Clinton Care, the Foundation moved to a state-by-state approach. State governors were invited to apply to the Foundation’s State Initiatives program for grants to introduce legislation and “institutionalize” their “reforms” by staffing state health bureaucracies with their supporters. Then Colorado governor Roy Romer strongly supported the Foundation’s goals, and on July 28, 1992, the Office of the Governor received a two-year grant for $566,999 from the Foundation. By 2000, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation had spent $30 million and counting to buy health policy in Colorado. From FY1999-2000 to FY 2016-17, inflation-adjusted spending on health increased by 64 percent while population increased by less than 25 percent.
Under Obamacare, state governments gained control of health coverage. Premiums for health insurance rose significantly. The monthly premium for a PPO policy for a 27-year-old Denver man increased 92 percent, from $159 to $304, from 2014 to 2015. The monthly cost for a family plan rose 35 percent, from $1,053 to $1,425.
To make sure that only Obamacare compliant health coverage is available, Colorado is still one of about 10 states that continues to ban the sale of the short-term health insurance. People buy those policies to bridge gaps in coverage caused by changing jobs, moving from school to work, or ineligibility for Obamacare subsidies. Colorado officials so dislike alternative coverage arrangements that they would rather people be uninsured than have non-Obamacare coverage.
Like short-term health coverage, health sharing groups offer an alternative to government controlled health care financing and delivery. The only solution, if one wants complete state control over individual health choices, is to use legislation to force them to identify themselves as a prelude to regulating them out of existence.
Linda Gorman is an economist with the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver, Colorado.
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