Census officials just revealed that 17.2 percent of North Carolinians “1.5 million” went without health insurance between 2006 and 2007.
These statistics aren’t surprising. North Carolina’s government has erected regulatory roadblocks that make health insurance too expensive. If state officials want to expand coverage, they must improve “health ownership” by reducing government interference with people’s health care and returning decision-making power to patients.
States with higher levels of health ownership spend less than North Carolina does on health care. In the Pacific Research Institute’s annual state-by-state ranking of health ownership, North Carolina placed near the bottom.
Lawmakers can start by cutting benefit mandates. Today in North Carolina, every insurance policy must cover marriage therapists, chiropractics, and other extraneous procedures. North Carolina’s 47 such mandates drive up insurance costs, pricing many out of the market.
The state’s medical tort system also forces insurance premiums higher. Nationally, one in eight doctors face a medical malpractice suit annually. In North Carolina, the average malpractice claim payment ??“ $330,000 ??“ is higher than most other states.
When physicians pay high malpractice premiums, those costs get passed along to patients.
With such deficiencies in mind, it’s unsurprising that North Carolina has a high percentage of citizens without private health insurance. It’s prohibitively expensive, so the state has to cover one in five residents under Medicaid, at a yearly cost of $9 billion.
By granting North Carolinians greater control over their healthcare decisions, the government can drive down costs, improve care, and expand coverage.
John R. Graham
San Francisco, Calif.
(John R. Graham is the author of the U.S. Index of Health Ownership, published by the Pacific Research Institute.)