FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2006
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
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
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.