What the Governor Means by “Strengthening Health Care”


Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s final State of the State speech during her first term has not been presented, yet, but one point already needs to be translated.  As Jennifer Bogdan and Katherine Gregg report for the Providence Journal:

Governor Raimondo is pledging to make certain health insurers cover adequate treatment for mental-health and substance-abuse disorders.

In her State of the State address Tuesday, the governor will push for strengthening existing law that requires insurers to treat behavioral health issues — everything from depression to opioid addiction — the same way they would physical conditions.

“I hear from so many Rhode Islanders who are beside themselves because they or their loved ones can’t get access to good mental health care, mostly because their insurance company won’t pay for it. That needs to stop,” Raimondo is expected to say, according to prepared remarks.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll be introducing legislation to make health insurance companies cover addiction and mental health treatment just like they cover diabetes or other chronic conditions.”

When the governor says the “insurance company won’t pay for it,” what she means is that the insurance customer is not paying for the coverage.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t need a new law because the insurer would be breaking existing ones.  So, what the governor think “needs to stop” is allowing people not to buy an insurance product and therefore not to be covered for services for which they haven’t paid.

Of course, the governor isn’t just proposing to make people buy insurance for services that they’re one day going to need.  That would be bad enough; it would also be impossible.  What the governor wants to do is to force everybody to buy this insurance coverage, even if there is almost no chance that a given customer will ever need it.

In other words, she wants to make people who don’t need these services — and never will — pay for people who do.  So, if a wealth scion of an American dynasty, like Patrick Kennedy, needs the services, he won’t have to pay beyond the ordinary cost of his medicine according to his plan.  That’s because some hardworking schmo — many such schmoes, actually — who has persevered to overcome his or her own challenges and avoid the pitfalls of addiction will be sharing the cost of the services.

Now, we can argue about whether this is how our health care system (and our society more broadly) should operate, but we should stop pretending that the money for these programs isn’t coming from somewhere.  We should definitely stop pretending that it is a sign of compassion and generosity for politicians to make other people pay for the programs by which they buy voters’ favor.

  • So Predictable

    Isn’t paying for only the insurance you need defeating the purpose of insurance?

    Could you shock us and tell us something you liked about the State of the State address?

    • Justin Katz

      One buys insurance based on an assessment of risk. I have insurance for car crashes that hopefully won’t happen, but that might. I don’t have boat insurance because I don’t have a boat. I don’t opt for double vision coverage because I assess that I can live with fewer pairs of glasses. I don’t buy the insurance on most electrical devices mostly because it doesn’t match my approach to buying and using devices.

      This is the government taking those sorts of choices away because it allows for the political boost of pretending to give people something for nothing.

  • Censored by Justin

    When can we expect your musings on Rep. Kettle? I’m sure you are wrapping that up soon, right? After all, you are “non-partisan”.

    • Guest

      Pot calling the kettle black?

      • Censored by Justin

        I am what I am, I don’t pretend to be “non-partisan”.