Experts Defend New Florida Law Reducing Insurance Mandates

Published September 1, 2008

Health care experts are jumping to the defense of a new Florida law allowing insurance providers to sell coverage plans free of expensive mandates.

The measure (see “Florida Passes Model Legislation Allowing More Health Insurance Choice,” Health Care News, August 2008) has come under fire from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), an activist group that has released a study claiming the measure will do little to reduce the number of uninsured in the Sunshine State.

Health policy experts, though, support the new measure, known as the “Cover Florida Health Access Act,” as a positive step toward affordable health insurance and, in fact, a model program for other states.

Eliminated Unwanted Mandates

Cover Florida, signed by Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in early June, allows individuals who qualify to purchase “bare bones” insurance policies that cover only the treatments consumers want to pay for, instead of all 48 treatments and procedures Tallahassee has declared mandatory. It aims to make health insurance more affordable for Floridians who have not been able to pay for policies made artificially expensive by state mandates.

CBPP questioned that outcome.

“Cover Florida has received considerable attention, but the track record for bare-bones policies suggests that they will not attract many uninsured Floridians, especially when–as with the new state law–premium subsidies for low- and moderate-income consumers are not provided,” wrote CBPP Senior Fellow Judith Solomon in the study, released July 1.

Joel White, a senior fellow at the Galen Institute, disagreed, saying the Florida measure is an example of government not forcing expensive, unwanted provisions down consumers’ throats.

“This important step forward by Florida reflects what many nationwide know all too well: Consumers can’t afford the ‘benefits’ lawmakers force on them,” said White. “In many cases the good intentions of lawmakers to ‘protect’ consumers by mandating benefits they cannot afford or do not want has ‘protected’ them into the ranks of the uninsured.”

Most Treatments Unaffected

Paul Guppy, vice president for research at the Washington Policy Institute, called the Florida program “a major step toward bringing common sense to its health care market.

“Getting rid of mandates for at least some policies allows people in Florida to buy health insurance that best fits their needs, at a price they’re willing to pay,” Guppy said.

Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council on Health Care, disagrees with the CBPP study’s claim that fewer mandated coverages means less real coverage. “Eliminating treatment mandates doesn’t mean the automatic elimination of the treatment,” she said.

“Just because coverage for a certain treatment isn’t mandated by law does not necessarily give the insurer the subsequent right to deny coverage for those patients who actually need that service. Most medical treatment is not specifically mandated by law,” Brase noted. “Most medical treatment is provided because the individual needs it and the doctor orders it.”

Jeff Emanuel ([email protected]) is The Heartland Institute’s research fellow for health care policy and managing editor of Health Care News.

For more information …

“New Georgia and Florida Health Plans Unlikely to Reduce Ranks of Uninsured,” by Judith Solomon, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 1, 2008:

“Florida Passes Model Legislation Allowing More Health Insurance Choice,” by Jeff Emanuel, Health Care News, August 1, 2008: