The Hobby Lobby decision once again points out the peril of mandates

By Tom Quiner

You’re familiar with the con: Obamacare will reduce health insurance premiums by $2500 per year.
That’s what candidate Obama promised. His calculation was remarkably accurate, except for one thing: they went up by $2500 instead of down.
I mention this unsavory $5000 miscalculation by the Obama brain trust in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Hobby Lobby yesterday.
Most commentators, writers, and bloggers are legitimately noting that this is either a victory for religious liberty, which it is, or a new “war on women,” which, of course, it is not. There has not been enough discussion about the idea of a “mandate” itself.
I suggest that state and federal tinkering is a significant reason for the rise of health insurance premiums in recent years and decades. Every single mandate imposed by the state adds to the cost of a policy. I reviewed an essay I wrote five years ago which appeared in the Des Moines Register. The idea is as relevant today as then:

Like other forms of insurance, the price of health insurance is affected by the amount of coverage you wish to purchase.   Its price has been raised artificially by legislatures in the 50 states. They have collectively imposed over two-thousand mandates on insurance companies.   According to The Council for Affordable Health Care, these mandates have increased the price of health insurance products by 20 percent to 50 percent, depending on the state in which you live.
You may ask, “but aren’t these mandates good, don’t they ensure my coverage will be adequate?” No, they’re not good if you’d prefer not to pay for the extra coverage, regardless of your reasons. Should you be required by law to purchase coverage for invitro fertilization? If you’re a single male, you may wish to save some money and take a pass. How about breast reduction surgery or circumcisions or dental care?
Many reading this column will instantly respond, “Yes! That should be covered.” Fine, pay for it in your own coverage.   But don’t require by force of law everyone to buy it, especially when many of us can’t afford or need the excessive coverage.
Iowa currently has 26 mandates on the books. That’s far less than California’s 56 and New York’s 51. On the other hand, Idaho has only 13.

The HHS Mandate imposed contraception, sterilizations, and abortifacients on health insurance coverage, except for limited restrictions. The government said they had to be provided for “free.” I asked an obstetrician how much surgical sterilizations cost. Guess? Try $7000 to $8000.
Someone is going to pay. Guess who? You and me in higher insurance premiums. Every single mandate drives up costs.
A simpler system would do two things:
1. Eliminate ALL mandates. Let the customer purchase the coverage that is right for them.
2. Eliminate the corporate deduction for health insurance. Let people buy individual policies that fit their life style and moral sensibilities. Let them purchase group coverage through private associations, fraternal organizations, or cooperatives. Let them own their own policy, rather than their employer.
Isn’t this a simpler, more just way to approach health insurance than the mess created by Obamacare?


  1. Paul Sharp on July 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Your simpler system is “spot on”. Incredible how our health insurance got so hopelessly tangled. Employer based insurance is nonsense in my opinion.

    • quinersdiner on July 1, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks, Paul. Sadly, it may prove too daunting to fix at this stage.