By Mary Taylor
Ohio Lt. Gov. and Insurance Director
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would be a great title if it actually protected patients or made healthcare more affordable. The trouble is President Obama’s health insurance plan does neither. How do I know? In the six months since Gov. John R. Kasich appointed me the Director of the Department of Insurance and advocate for Ohio insurance consumers, I’ve spent the bulk of my time defending Ohioans from – of all places – the federal government. I’ve quickly learned that the President’s job-killing healthcare plan is bad for consumers, bad for Ohio and bad for our state insurance market. And there is no way to avoid the looming higher healthcare insurance premiums – for everyone! That’s more money coming out of your pocket to pay for an already broken healthcare system.
Obama’s healthcare plan is so convoluted that just last week the White House finally acknowledged in media reports that it would have to fix a “glitch” in the federal law that would allow millions of families with incomes of as much as $64,000 to qualify for completely free healthcare from the government. How are individual states supposed to implement a measure that Congress, the President and their advisors can’t even figure out?
Leave it to Washington, D.C. to think they know best how to insure Ohioans. The federal healthcare law forces many new mandates onto states that are overly burdensome, including a huge and costly Medicaid expansion, the creation of a new health insurance regulatory bureaucracy and one-size-fits-all market reforms that limit states’ discretion to regulate health insurance. It is concerning that even the less controversial parts of the new law come at a great cost and burden to Ohioans and our job creators.
Probably the most discussed and highly controversial part of the new law is the individual mandate where the federal government is actually telling all Ohioans (and Americans) that you must buy health insurance coverage or else pay a hefty penalty to the government. Additionally, the law requires employers with 50 employees or more to provide qualified health insurance coverage or, you guessed it, pay more penalties to the government. For employers, this is a very strong incentive not to create more jobs beyond 49 employees – or worse – to shrink their businesses and lay people off to avoid paying the penalty.
Further, the federal government will subsidize coverage for people up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. This means that using today’s rates, government will pay a portion of the health insurance for a family of four making nearly $90,000 a year or for an individual making more than $43,000 a year. The federal government will fund the subsidies with those penalties and fees charged to individuals and employers, and by cutting approximately $436 billion from Medicare, including reimbursements to Medicare providers.
Much of the focus of implementation at the state level is on the creation of health insurance exchanges. The President’s plan proposes two new insurance exchanges in each state meant to be one-stop shops for purchasing health insurance. One exchange is designed for individuals and the other for small businesses to find, compare and purchase health insurance coverage. Setting up such an exchange is expensive and time consuming and if individual states refuse, the federal government will march in and do it for them.
Finally there are a series of market “reforms” that will significantly impact Ohio’s health insurance industry. Whereas many states have only a few health insurance companies doing business in their state, Ohio has more than a dozen. Partly, this is because the rating rules in Ohio are relatively flexible. For individuals, insurance coverage is priced based on an individual age, health status, tobacco usage and other factors. For small businesses, the group is rated similarly. As a result of the President’s plan, Ohio will be forced to narrow the rating requirements from many different combinations to only four. This will cause insurance premiums to go up for Ohio families. To make matters worse, this increase is on top of the increase in price that will come from the additional mandates the new law requires.
Unfortunately, while being sold as healthcare “reform,” this new law serves only to trap individuals and employers in the same dysfunctional cycle in which they have been participating for years, but now with even higher premiums and a severely damaged insurance market in Ohio. As your Lt. Governor and Insurance Director, I will do everything I can to protect Ohio’s citizens and job creators from this catastrophic law.
Mary Taylor is Ohio’s 65th Lieutenant Governor. She was sworn into office on January 10, 2011, the same day Governor John R. Kasich named her to serve as the director of the Ohio Department of Insurance and to lead CSI Ohio: The Common Sense Initiative to reform Ohio’s regulatory policies.
NOTE: This is the first in a series of upcoming columns by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor focused on the negative consequences and costly impact to Ohioans of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.