LA Calls Halt to Health Coverage Mandates

August 13, 2003 ( - Even though Louisiana health insurances already labor under 31 mandated health benefits, they won't get any more required coverages for four years.

>That moratorium came in a new bill recently signed into law by Governor Mike Foster, according to a report by A.M. Best Company. According to House Bill 1606, health plans won’t be subject to additional health-benefit mandates beyond current statutory requirements between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2008. The law applies to all health plans in the state, including health maintenance organizations, preferred-provider organizations, group, hospital and other health plans.

>Already, Louisiana has 31 mandated benefits that require insurers to pay for services such as alcoholism treatment, breast reconstruction, clinical trials and diabetic supplies, among others. The state also includes mandates for specific categories of medical providers, such as nurse midwives, occupational therapists and speech and hearing therapists.

“Any time a decision about mandated benefits is taken outside the legislative context or is better informed inside the legislative context, it’s a positive step forward,” said Larry Akey, a spokesman for the Health Insurance Association of America.

>Although moratoriums like that in Louisiana are rare, other states have made similar moves. South Carolina has a moratorium like Louisiana’s, Akey said. Also, North Carolina took a “back door” approach by passing a law that said employers don’t have to purchase health plans that include coverage for existing mandates, he said.

>Rising health-care costs are blamed in part on mandates, according to the A.M. Best report. Surveys have predicted health-care costs will go up between 14% to 17% in 2004.