Why We Have Few Choices in NH

This article by Steve MacDonald sums up the reason we have few choices for health insurance in NH. The same person who caused this situation is now touting ‘choice’ with a government option. When you ignore history, you are doomed to repeat it.

Dear Catherine, It’s Jeanne Shaheen’s Fault

Someone shared this letter from Seacoast Online with me. Catherine Jones, a Portsmouth resident, believes that a public option is the best solution for what ails our states health insurance problems. I guess she’s never heard of Jeanne Shaheen or SB 711.

Here’s Catherine’s Letter.
Nov. 26 — To the Editor:

Here in New Hampshire, we have pitifully few health insurance companies to choose from and the coverage cost is astronomical.

We definitely need the choice of a public option, especially for those uninsured or under-insured.

Let’s stop letting the for-profit insurance companies set the terms of coverage.

Catherine Jones

Catherine.

New Hampshire used to have a thriving and diverse insurance industry until then State Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced SB 711 and got it passed and signed into law.

During the 1994 session of the New Hampshire legislature, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, then a state senator, responded to BCBS by sponsoring SB 711. It went into effect January 1, 1995. Among other provisions affecting the state’s insurance industry, the measure:

- Required insurance companies to guarantee-issue individual health insurance policies. Companies were prohibited from denying coverage to any person or eligible dependent.

- Imposed price controls, in the form of modified community rating, on individual health insurance premiums. Premiums could be modified or adjusted only for age, not health status.

- Prohibited insurers from increasing premiums by more than 25 percent until January 2000.

Any of that sound familiar? Must insure everyone. Can’t deny coverage. Price controls. Can’t increase premiums based on health status.

Thanks to Shaheen the Insurance market in New Hampshire disintegrated.

While health insurance coverage was little affected by Shaheen’s reforms, consumer choice was badly damaged. By 1997, the number of commercial health insurers serving New Hampshire dwindled to five from a previous high of 12. Those remaining in the market reduced their insurance offerings to cover only high-deductible, catastrophic-type health insurance plans.

BCBS thanks to its size had a virtual monopoly but eventually could not even afford to provide individual health insurance policies under Shaheen’s rules.

Shaheen’s fix had trashed the market. The state had to find ways to roll back the affects to salvage what remained. While they made some strides, as late as 2004 the market had still not recovered.

At this point we are still reeling from the effects of Shaheen-Care for New Hampshire.

That, Catherine, is why we have, if I may again quote you…” pitifully few health insurance companies to choose from and the coverage cost is astronomical.”

A do-goody Democrat Senator over-regulated the market, drove up costs, drove out competition, and created an environment where the only way to stay in business was for whomever remained to charge a fortune.

The same thing will happen with Obama Care on a national scale, except everyone will eventually end up in the public plan. And when that plan can’t sustain costs, service and access will suffer. And so then, will we.

The laws of economics do not care what regard a bunch of progressives have for Constitutional law. It will happen.

So. Still think we need a public option? Jeanne does. She may be a different kind of Senator now but she didn’t learn a damned thing from her last effort at “reform.” That’s what happens when you ignore history. You get failed reforms all over again.

Source: Heartland Institute

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