N.H. May Expand Taxpayer-Funded Insurance

Published August 1, 2009

The New Hampshire House of Representatives is considering legislation to expand the state’s taxpayer-subsidized children’s health insurance plan to cover low-income adults.

Senate Bill 115, sponsored by state Sen. Kathleen Sgambati (D-Tilton), was passed by the state Senate in March and at press time was pending before the state House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee.

The bill directs the Healthy Kids Corp., a publicly run entity providing health insurance to children in low-income families, to establish a program offering coverage to New Hampshire residents between ages 19 and 25 who cannot be included in their family’s insurance plan and who have income at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level (currently less than $3,600 a month). The buy-in premium for those newly eligible will be about $170 a month, according to Healthy Kids Corp.

Under current law, eligibility for the Healthy Kids program ends at age 18.

Less Need for Coverage

Supporters of the bill claim it will not create additional costs for taxpayers because the premiums will cover any additional administrative needs. But Charles Arlinghaus, president of the New Hampshire-based Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, sees the bill as “bad legislation.”

“Essentially, [the state government] is adding young adults to a program meant to subsidize insurance for poor children,” Arlinghaus said.

“While we all wish younger people had health insurance, it makes sense for many of them not to,” Arlinghaus added. “First, they don’t have as many health care needs, and so they do not see the importance of insurance. Human nature dictates that a 60-year-old sees health insurance as a greater need than a 25-year-old, just as families with kids are more likely to purchase minivans than single people.”

‘No-Frills’ Coverage Needed

State government mandates requiring all insurance policies to cover a wide variety of conditions are what’s really keeping young adults from getting health insurance, by keeping prices high, Arlinghaus notes.

“If we want to encourage some coverage, we should allow insurers to offer no-frills catastrophic coverage—just insurance against catastrophe—to people who rarely see a doctor,” said Arlinghaus. “The price would be small if we were free from all the mandates the legislature increasingly adds.

“Unfortunately, [SB 115] is typical of too many government expansions,” Arlinghaus continued. “Government creates a need by prohibiting willing insurers from offering reasonable catastrophic plans. Then government assumes more responsibility, more financial risk on behalf of taxpayers, and ultimately makes more decisions for you.”

Sarah McIntosh ([email protected]) teaches constitutional law and American politics at Wichita State University in Kansas.

For more information …

New Hampshire Senate Bill 115: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2009/SB0115.html