Today, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the Health Care Choices Act (H.R. 371), legislation introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that will help lower costs by allowing Americans to shop for coverage across state lines. The bill is part of the Republican effort – outlined in the Pledge to America – to repeal the Democrats’ job-crushing health care law and replace it with common-sense solutions that lower costs and protect jobs.

According to Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), “the Council for Affordable Health Insurance has identified a total of 2,156 mandates across the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2010,” with each mandate adding to the cost of health insurance in that state.  “By some estimates, an average of 30 to 40 mandates can increase the total cost of a policy between 20% and 45%,” said Rep. Pitts. The Health Care Choices Act would allow Americans who have been priced out of the market in the state they live in to shop for more affordable coverage across state lines. As experts at today’s hearing made clear, this legislation would increase health care choices, improve quality, and allow millions of uninsured Americans to purchase more affordable coverage.  Here are the highlights:

  • Competition Across State Lines Could Help Up to 8.1 Million Americans Obtain Coverage. According to a study conducted by University of Minnesota Professor Stephen T. Parente, “the best scenario to reduce the uninsured, numerically, is competition among all 50 states where one or more states emerge as dominant players.  This scenario would yield a reduction in the uninsured by 8.1 million people.”
  • The Health Care Choices Act Would Allow Americans to Purchase Quality Health Care at a Lower Cost.  The study conducted by Parente uncovered “one of the most telling illustrations” of how preventing the sale of health insurance across state lines hurts Americans: “we found premium quotes for the same family from the same insurance company for the same insurance benefit to be more than twice as expensive in a New Jersey town, Lambertville, compared to New Hope, Pennsylvania.  These two towns are separated by ¼ mile of Delaware River, but their citizens are likely to use many of the same medical providers.” Christie Herrera, Director of the Health and Human Services Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, highlighted a similar example in Georgia where, under new legislation, “an uninsured Georgian looking for coverage in the individual market (in Georgia, an average of $163/month) could find more affordable monthly premiums in neighboring Alabama ($126/month), Tennessee ($151/month), North Carolina ($142/month) or South Carolina ($154/month).”
  • Forcing Insurers to Compete With Out-of-State Providers Will Increase Innovation and Lower Costs. According to Manhattan Institute senior fellow Dr. Paul Howard, Rep. Blackburn’s legislation would “spur innovation in insurance products as states compete to offer the best combination of cost and coverage terms.”  In addition, “once the added costs of regulation were visible to consumers through regulatory competition, providers who wanted to maintain insurance coverage of their services would have to find ways to lower their costs or increase their value of their services to make them more attractive to the majority of insurance consumers.” Herrera also commented on the benefits of introducing more competition into the health insurance market, noting that “by opening coverage options across state lines, citizens could benefit from innovative plans in other states; insurers would face fewer barriers to entry into a state’s health insurance market; and policymakers could benefit from new ideas in other states while maintaining core consumer protections important to their home state.”

In the Pledge to America, Republicans promised to repeal ObamaCare and replace the job-crushing law with better solutions to “lower costs for families and small businesses” and “increase access to affordable, high-quality care.” The new House majority has already voted to fully repeal and defund the $2.6 trillion law, and will continue working to advance solutions, like the Health Care Choices Act, that will help lower costs and protect jobs.