Editorial: Laura Colbert of Georgians for a Healthy Future cites Georgia’s high uninsured rate, the opioid epidemic, and the financial struggles of rural hospitals in calling for the state to…
A subcommittee of the Georgia House of Representatives’ Insurance committee convened last Monday, November 13th to evaluate the use, costs, and effectiveness of the state’s mandated insurance benefits. Before the Affordable Care Act’s ten essential health benefits, states required insurers to cover certain health care services in the health plans sold in and regulated by the state, and many of those benefit coverage mandates remain in effect today. (CMS has a list of Georgia’s coverage mandates.) Because benefit coverage mandates have a principally positive impact on consumers’ access to, cost of, and quality of health coverage, GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert testified at the committee hearing.
In her testimony, Laura focused on the benefits of coverage mandates to consumers:
- Protection from insufficient coverage— No one plans on getting in a car crash or being diagnosed with cancer. Even health care services we think of as planned are not; only half of U.S. pregnancies are planned. Coverage mandates help to guarantee that consumers have access to needed care and are financially protected even if they do not accurately predict their health care needs when they enroll in a plan.
- Increased access to care— Studies show that coverage mandates can result in increased use of the mandated health care services, especially those that are expensive. For example, methadone maintenance treatment, the most effective treatment for opioid addiction, costs about $5000 annually. Because most insurance plans are required to cover mental health and substance use services, consumers are able to better access these services. Without that financial help, consumers may forgo this critical service or others like it.
- Financial protection at minimal cost—The Affordable Care Act limits how much consumers have to pay out of pocket for health care each year through what is called an out-of-pocket maximum. This out-of-pocket maximum includes co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance, and any other out-of-pocket costs but does not include premium payments. The out of pocket maximum protections only apply to mandated services. Non-mandated services include adult dental and vision services, infertility treatments, in-home nursing, hospice care, and long-term care, and consumers are often left to pay for the full costs of these.
- Comparison shopping made easier—In the U.S., only about 12% of consumers have proficient health literacy skills, meaning that they are able to calculate their share of health insurance costs for a year. By standardizing insurance plans through coverage mandates, consumers are better able to compare plans based on a more limited number of factors like price and network breadth.
If you want more information on the consumer impacts of coverage mandates, check out the fact sheet we created summarizing GHF’s testimony.