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Commentary: Louisiana Lawmakers Can Act Now to Expand Choice for Health Care Consumers

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Other states undermine legal case against ObamaCare by accepting federal money

Do not wait for the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is the central message free market health care policy analysts have for state officials who agree with recent court decisions against the new federal health care law. Although federal judges in Florida and Virginia have both ruled that the insurance mandate provision violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, analysts say state lawmakers should act now to expand consumer choice and reduce costs.

Christopher Jaarda, president of the American Health Care Education Coalition (AHEC), supports a tax deduction for individuals who purchase insurance, as companies already receive. He also recommends reforming Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance for low-income children, pregnant women, senior citizens and the disabled. The idea here would be to use the program to help cover the premiums, the fees people pay to receive medical care.

“First, [individually purchased insurance] would make consumers more cost conscious of premium costs and the cost of medical care (co-pays, deductibles, etc.) which would in turn lead to better consumer choices,” Jaarda explains.  He believes health care inflation would finally be restrained or even reversed, as has occurred with lasik eye surgery and other procedures for which clients pay out-of-pocket.

“Second, it would be the most efficient way to eliminate concerns over denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions.  Once an individual had insurance, they would take it with them and continue their coverage even if they switched jobs.”

These policy changes would also benefit people on the verge of Medicaid eligibility and would help to ensure continuity of care, Jaarda continues.

“When someone’s income falls so that they move from non-eligible to Medicaid-eligible, they often lose access to the doctor of their choice, including many specialists, because many doctors don’t accept Medicaid… We could eliminate the problems associated with moving in and out of Medicaid eligibility. People would continue with the same insurance regardless of whether their incomes rises or falls.”

Louisiana’s health officials are already set to experiment with Medicaid funded Coordinated Care Networks (CCNs), which they say will provide consumers with greater autonomy and decision making authority.

“More than a quarter of the state’s population receives health care coverage through Medicaid, and coordinating care will improve these enrollees’ health and lead to a higher quality of life. The state has submitted a notice of intent as the official rule to implement CCNs for Medicaid, and expects the first recipients to enroll with CCNs early next year.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal also recently announced that the state will decline to set up the exchange system that would enable new federal insurance regulations. The exchanges would create new state level bureaucracies that serve as a conduit for the purchase of insurance. They would create a new framework to expand coverage and to enforce federal standards for participating plans.

Other states should follow Jindal’s lead and resist setting up the exchanges. Otherwise, the ObamaCare regulations will begin to take root.

“Ultimately, we believe that ObamaCare will fail,” Jaarda said.  “It will be struck down by the Supreme Court, it will collapse of its own weight and budget impact, or Congress will repeal it. ObamaCare is attempting to get states hooked on the federal law early so that ObamaCare becomes `too big to fail.’”

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at kmooney@pelicaninstitute.org. Follow him on Twitter.

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