State Mandates and Health Insurance Pricing

Well now, this morning I came across this interesting post here, on the State Policy Blog, comparing health insurance pricing in one semi-unregulated state insurance market (Colorado) and in a state, Massachusetts, with a state mandate requiring health insurance. As you can see from the post, the numbers show pricing is significantly higher in Massachusetts, which obviously now has a health care reform act in place that effectively requires employers and individuals to purchase health insurance, than it is in the unregulated portion of the Colorado market. The author’s intent is to demonstrate that state mandates and state regulation drive up pricing, but I am not convinced that the simple comparison of pricing demonstrates this at all. Initially, I can’t vouch for the actual data, or for the author’s characterization of the Colorado market in comparison to the Massachusetts market. But even if you take the numbers at face value, they threaten to prove nothing more than the truth of the old saying that there are three kinds of lies - lies, darn' lies and statistics. This is because, as discussed in prior posts such as this one, Massachusetts has very high costs of actual medical care compared to other regions of the country, for reasons that may very well be unique to Massachusetts and possibly as well to the few other areas of the country that, like Massachusetts, have a particularly high concentration of major teaching hospitals. Its been years since I have been to Colorado, but I don’t think, to my recollection and on my general reading, that it’s health care and health insurance market fits that description. As a result, comparing Colorado health insurance pricing to Massachusetts’ health insurance pricing is simply comparing apples to oranges - or maybe, given the states we are talking about, to cranberries - and tells you nothing about the effect on pricing of state mandates such as the one recently enacted in Massachusetts. That said though, it’s an interesting question how state mandates impact pricing compared to markets without state mandates in place, and I would love to see a carefully constructed economic study on the subject. Anyone seen any? If so, I’d love to see it.
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