Out-of-state health insurance bill clears Senate hurdle

A bill that would allow New Hampshire businesses and individuals to shop around the country for health insurance – a measure that barely squeaked through the Senate Commerce Committee – easily passed the full Senate Tuesday.But that is probably because the bill is going to the Senate Finance Committee, meaning the Senate as a whole will get another shot at it.Senate Bill 150 would allow businesses to buy insurance in states that don’t have many of the mandates that New Hampshire imposes.In committee, the bill’s chief champion, Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Henniker, maintained that it would be similar to buying auto insurance and would make the market more competitive.Sen. Ray White, R-Bedford, spoke against it, arguing that it would create an “unlevel playing field” for New Hampshire companies which played by the Granite state rules. The bill passed the committee, but by a 3-2 vote.But on the floor, White was silent and ended up voting for the bill, leaving it for the committee’s lone Democrat, Sen. Matthew Houde, D-Plainfield, to carry the ball for the opposition.Houde argued that it would expose consumers to companies that aren’t regulated by New Hampshire, meaning they wouldn’t have the safeguards that protect them from unscrupulous insurance companies.In addition, the out-of-state companies would be able to “cherry-pick” the healthiest groups and individuals. That would raise rates for everybody else.”It’s a classic example of the desire to be positive, but resulting in substantial unintended consequences,” Houde said.Sanborn said that there is already discrimination in the marketplace, although he admitted there are still some “valid questions” raised by the issue, such as whether the state should license out-of-state insurers and whether there should be some kind of assessment or bond imposed on them. But, he said, the Senate should at least try to move the bill forward by passing it to finance committee to work it out.”If you asked a small business their biggest problem, more than taxes, more than regulation, affordable health care is at the core,” he said.The Senate passed the bill 19-4. All of the opponents were Democrats. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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