I would like to clear up a rumor started because of my opposition to the Alabama Legislature recently mandating private and public insurance plans cover a specific therapy – I have no tail, no horns, but I do have a conservative heart.
The debate over whether the Legislature should mandate specific autism therapy coverages to every health insurance plan in the state – including taxpayer-funded programs like Medicaid, AllKids, PEEHIP, and SEHIP – has been emotional, intense, and heated. None of these are bad things. That’s constructive in the legislative process.
The autism community’s position is understandable; we just disagree over how to accomplish the goal of getting coverage for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. As a fiscal conservative, I do not believe the government has a role in mandating anything to private businesses – it is partly why Obamacare was such an egregious violation of Americans’ personal liberties.
I am not saying autism treatment is the same thing as the massive federal overreach into our private healthcare. But the small-government principle of allowing the free market to work is in opposition to mandates.
In addition to the problem of a government mandate, the costs to taxpayers, businesses, and individuals for insurance coverage of autism therapy is unknown. The Retirement Systems of Alabama has said the cost to just the state teachers’ insurance plan will be close to $18 million each and every year. Additionally, it will cost the state employees’ insurance plan a minimum of $4 million annually. These two government programs, in addition to Medicaid and AllKids, are subsidized by you, the taxpayer.
The main private insurer in the state, BlueCross and BlueShield of Alabama, publicly offered to cover exactly what was originally passed by the House of Representatives. We had an opportunity to give most if not all, Alabamians access to ABA therapy and without a government mandate to Alabama businesses.
It was argued that BlueCross and BlueShield’s offer left out public insurance programs, but my colleagues and I were willing to offer autism therapy for Medicaid at a manageable, predictable amount in order to protect taxpayers and allow the PEEHIP and SHIP boards to make these policy decisions and manage costs.
So, yes, I have compassion. But I also have principles – and I believe that government should not interfere in your private healthcare service and insurance plan, or create additional annual expenses to taxpayer-funded programs.
I am happy autistic children will now receive ABA therapy, but we could have accomplished the same goal of coverage without a heavy-handed government mandate and unpredictable costs to taxpayers. Free-market principles empower individuals and businesses, while government mandates inevitably erode personal and economic freedom.
Senator Trip Pittman represents District 32 in the Alabama State Senate, which is contained fully within Baldwin County and is Chairman of the Senate Finance & Taxation-General Fund Committee. He is a small business owner and a former member of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.