Editorial: Let’s face reality on health care

The New Hampshire Legislature and Governor Lynch deserve to take a bow for their work in ridding the state’s small businesses of the albatross known as Senate Bill 110.

The bill – as many, many readers of New Hampshire Business Review know from difficult firsthand experience – has been a disaster from the start. Touted as a bid to bring “competition” and predictability to the state’s health-care marketplace, SB 110 really resulted in skyrocketing health insurance premiums for as many as two-thirds of the state’s small businesses. It also meant a loss of insurance for hundreds of employees of those firms that, upon seeing the double- and triple-digit increases in their insurance bills, decided they could no longer provide the benefit.

SB 125 is the measure that repeals most of SB 110’s misguided “reforms.” It prevents insurance companies from using factors like geography and health status in determining the rates for entire groups. It limits the difference between the lowest and highest rates charged by insurers to the same type of group or business. And it creates a high-risk pool that will allow companies to keep health-care costs down and prevent rates from spiking.

While proponents of SB 110 insist that the changes they advocated didn’t have enough time to prove themselves, the argument could easily be made that they had far too much time, and that they did prove themselves. What SB 110 proved was that such reforms will result in an unequal playing field for companies whose employees and families just happen to be older or whose plant is located in a “higher-risk” location. The fact remains that a blind insistence on hoping that “competition” and “market forces” will fix our health-care system is a naive, and economically disastrous, belief.

Not only in New Hampshire, but across the United States, businesses — small and large, manufacturers and service firms — are trying to compete in a global marketplace against companies that are not saddled with daily concerns about health-care costs and operating what amount to health-care subsidiaries. The result is that those overseas companies’ costs are far, far more predictable from year to year than their U.S. counterparts.

In the United States, almost 15 percent of our entire gross domestic product – some 1.5 TRILLION DOLLARS – is spent on a health-care system that insures 40 percent of us. The majority of that money comes from employers that, under the U.S. system, are responsible for ensuring that Americans are provided with health care. Considering how much money we’re talking about, it doesn’t seem like a particularly efficient system, or an effective one.

At a time when we’re told daily that Americans and American business must learn to compete in a global economy, isn’t it time that we face up to the reality that the U.S. health system is preventing our nation’s businesses from truly competing on an equal footing?

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