Not Against Children With Autism ? Against Mandates
As the legislative session comes to a close this week, a number of bills have supporters who are eager to see them passed. Two of those bills, H.B. 1311 and H.B. 1341, would succeed in raising the cost of health insurance for all Missourians by requiring state-regulated private health insurance companies — those covering small- and medium-sized businesses — to cover up to $55,000 annually in screenings and therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders. I explained in a previous post why mandates raise the cost of health insurance for everyone, pricing some people out of the insurance market. As of this afternoon, these bills will be advancing to conference and will be subject to one final vote.
This morning, I received an email message from a group that supports the autism bill urging its supporters to contact the House speaker, who they believed had been preventing the bill from reaching conference for a final vote. The email mentions that the speaker’s family is involved with the Ozark Center for Autism in Joplin, and questions how he can support causes that help autism spectrum people, yet also oppose the bill.
There is a disconnect in that logic. Opposing the insurance mandate does not indicate a lack of caring about autistic children and their families. Instead, it may follow from a recognition that government mandates necessarily increase health insurance costs for everyone. This hurts the families and children who suffer from conditions that are not state-protected. It also hurts individuals who can no longer afford their insurance premiums because increased premium costs have priced some marginal number of them out of the market. Opposing the bill demonstrates an understanding that the proposed legislation has effects other than the immediately foreseeable subsidy for autistic children, but also the unseen effects for individuals who have not been granted the protection of a similar state mandate.
This example clearly demarcates the differing approaches taken by competing political ideologies. The Ozark Center for Autism is a private charity that specializes in providing the applied behavior analysis therapy that the mandate seeks to cover. Supporting this group is an active measure to help autism-spectrum children without creating a government mandate. Supporting the activities of a private charity does not increase the costs of health insurance for other individuals.
Government mandates, on the other hand, raise health care costs for the rest of the population — even when those mandates are targeted to disabilities or disorders that we particularly hope will be supported. It would be prohibitively expensive to mandate coverage of every potential health problem, but increased competition in health insurance markets would allow families to choose the coverage that best suits them. Individuals who feel strongly about helping those who are afflicted with a certain condition can donate to a private charity that provides services to assist those who can’t afford treatments on their own. Involving the government is not the only solution to such problems, nor the most effective one.