Monday, May 2, 2011

Congrats, Range Readers: You Helped Kill Some Bad Bills!

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2011 at 2:03 PM

If you were one of the Range readers who participated in our Call-The-Governor campaign last week, you can feel pretty good about the results: Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the two bills we urged you to sound off on.

One of them, Sen. Frank Antenori’s SB 1322, would have required Tucson and Phoenix to ask for bids for any service provided that cost the city more than $500,000 to provide, whether it’s taking care of your parks or ensuring that the water that’s delivered to your home is safe.

SB 1322, which was backed by the anti-government Goldwater Institute, would have had one certain outcome: An expensive bureaucracy to manage the astronomical number of procurement contracts that would have been required. Even if you think the city should outsource more of its work, creating more red tape with a one-size-crushes-all legislative sledgehammer hardly seems like the best way to get there. It’s exactly the type of decision that should be left to the discretion of the people who are elected and hired to run the city.

Or, as Brewer put it in her veto letter: “While I can agree that all levels of government must continue to find ways to cut costs, I am becoming increasingly concerned that many bills introduced this session micromanage decisions best made at the local level. What happened to the conservative belief that the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people? The citizens of Phoenix and Tucson formed their government and adopted a charter to guide it. This legislation erodes the ability of voters to receive services from the government that they themselves formed with a responsiveness and accountability from the officials them themselves elected at the local level.”

The other bill we wanted to see knocked down was SB 1593, which allowed the sale of health insurance across state lines. That’s a popular proposal in Republican circles, but SB 1593 showed why it’s not as simple as it sounds.

The argument in favor of allowing the sale of insurance across state lines goes something like this: If you have more companies selling insurance policies, it will generate competition and drive down health-care prices.

Right now, insurance companies are regulated by individual states. So if you have a problem with your health insurer, you can go to your attorney general or your lawmaker or another government official to complain if you have a problem. But if you’ve bought a health insurance policy from Delaware, why is anyone in Delaware going to care about your problem? Plus, being able to file your complaints in Delaware presents logistical challenges, especially if you’re in a hospital bed.

Those state regulations also include certain mandates, such as the requirement that health care plans offered in Arizona provide coverage for treatment of austic children.

But if an out-of-state insurance company starts selling policies here that don’t cover autism or other mandated treatments, then they can offer lower rates—and thereby have an unfair financial advantage over Arizona-based insurance companies.

SB 1593 “fixed” that problem that by saying that if an out-of-state insurer offered a policy that didn’t cover a treatment mandated by Arizona, then Arizona insurance companies would no longer have to cover treatment, either. And that provision was added to the bill as an amendment with almost zero public input in the final days of the session as bills were being rushed through so lawmakers could adjourn within 100 days.

You see where this is going: Pretty soon, Arizona insurance mandates—whether related to cancer screenings, maternity care or diabetes—would be meaningless.

That’s a point that Brewer—who stressed her support of the private insurance industry and her dislike of federal health-insurance mandates—made in her veto letter:

Over the years, the Legislature has carefully weighed the priorities of Arizonans when determining what should be included in a standard health-benefit package. The same level of public scrutiny should be applied whenever the Legislature attempts to remove a mandate. Senate Bill 1593 includes a provision that would, under certain conditions, change Arizona’s benefit requirements based on legislative decisions in other states. This change was added on the floor and not subject to the typical public input that such major policy decisions should receive.

I am also concerned about risks to our citizens who may be subject to other states’ regulatory procedures that could leave them with little recourse in the event of mistreatment. Senate Bill 1993 limits the jurisdiction of the Arizona Department of Insurance over out-of-state companies, potentially putting Arizona policyholders at risk. Arizonans should not have to litigate against an insurer when the state has an existing process by which insurance disputes can be resolved.

More on Brewer’s vetoes in this week’s print edition.

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment

Tucson Weekly

Best of Tucson Weekly

Tucson Weekly