Logo, The Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care - Health Care Advocacy Group

Press Release
June 19, 2006

Contact 518.462.2296
Cost commission MUST happen in the final hours
Don’t let the money go to waste!

ALBANY – A measure intended to relieve the burden of health insurance costs on small businesses has prompted the state’s largest single-issue grassroots business coalition to push for an independent Health Insurance Mandate Review Commission as a top priority in these remaining days.

Passage of A.2912/S.6735 – which if enacted would be the broadest mental health and substance abuse mandate in the nation – blatantly ignores the overwhelming need for affordable health insurance faced by New York's small business owners and sole proprietors.

The Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care assembled in Albany today to support Senator James L. Seward (Chair of the Senate Insurance Committee) and the legislature’s effort to finalize legislation to create the “Health Insurance Mandate Review Commission.” The 2006-07 state budget included a $300,000 appropriation to create a an entity to evaluate the cost and medical efficacy of all proposed health insurance mandates. The commission will submit detailed reports of its findings to state lawmakers and provide essential data that will assist in their deliberations.

Never has the need for an independent benefit and cost commission been as evident as this year in the debate over the unlimited mental health mandate. For instance, mandate supporters cited their own study that claimed the mandates would increase premiums $1.26 per month while the insurance industry placed the cost considerably higher at 3% or more. While both sides concluded some New Yorkers would become uninsured as a result of this mandate, neither side could quantify the magnitude of such a development. A benefit and cost commission would correct this shortcoming by providing detailed analyses on proposed health insurance coverage mandates.

Health insurance mandate commissions are not a new concept. Nearly 25 states including our immediate neighbors Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont and most recently Massachusetts, require a cost/efficacy analysis for health insurance mandate bills. For New York businesses struggling to maintain coverage, this proposal is long overdue.

Mandates on health insurance coverage, although well intentioned, often have the unwelcome effect of raising health insurance premiums. New York is one of the most heavily mandated states in the union with 34 different requirements for treatments services and providers. Each of these requirements bears a cost. A 2003 actuary study commissioned by the Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care determined that health insurance mandates cost premium payers $1,066 for family policies and $444 for individual policies, or 12.2% of the total premiums. Studies show that for every one percent increase in health insurance premiums; another 30,000 New Yorkers become uninsured. State mandates primarily affect small employers and the self-employed who purchase private insurance for themselves and their families. Large companies with sufficient capital to self-insure can opt out of state mandate coverage in accordance with federal law.

“I believe that both the legislature and the public should have this information before deciding whether to require all fully- insured policies to include a certain benefit,” said Senator James L. Seward, chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee and sponsor of this legislation. “There are nearly 3 million New Yorkers who currently do not have health insurance. The higher premiums resulting from new mandates would inevitably lead to even further increases in the number of uninsured in the state. This is unacceptable, and we need to enact the mandate commission now. I am hopeful that we can work with the Assembly to come to an agreement on language enacting the commission prior to the end of session."

“This issue is not about money. It’s about people,” said Jeff Leland, chair of the Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care. “Anyone in business understands the necessity of making an educated decision and we expect lawmakers to do the same. Small business owners want our employees to have access to basic, affordable health insurance that covers the medical care that they need. There are only so many pieces of the pie to go around and we need to make sure that limited health care dollars well spent.

“This is a life and death issue,” said Jeff Williams, Senior Associate Director of Public Policy and Legislative Director of the New York Farm Bureau. “Whether it’s “drive-thru deliveries” or “Rudy’s law,” many of the mandates on record appear compelling until you look at all of the facts. Consumers today are paying for some treatments and services that are scientifically outdated.

Without this commission, mandates will continue to increase the financial burden of premium payers, without the benefit of knowing which treatments and services are really in the best interest to the public.”

The need for a cost and benefit analysis commission is critical. Studies have shown that affordable health insurance is now the greatest concern of New York’s small businesses, even exceeding the long-time frontrunner, business taxes.

“Once I could pay the full cost of health insurance for my employees,” said Pat R. Bemy, the owner of Printing Services of New York, Inc. of Schenectady. “I now have no choice but to pass the increases along to my employees. I fear that it is only a matter of time before they reach the threshold of what they can afford. While there is no single solution, this commission is a realistic first step in controlling the problem. It is critical that lawmakers from both houses work together and agree on language that will allow the Health Insurance Mandate Review Commission to become a reality.”

The Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care is the largest single-issue grassroots business coalition in New York State - 2,500 small business owners and sole proprietors representing more than 200,000 working New Yorkers. To learn more, visit our website at www.employeralliance.com.