On Tuesday Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that will require Empire State insurance companies to cover autism, including screening and a variety of treatments. Mr. Cuomo called it "inexcusable that financial constraints would stand in the way of a brighter future for those affected by this disorder." ...
The economics of mandates are simple: Benefits aren't free, and their costs will be built into insurance premiums. If the government requires insurers to, say, allow "children" as old as age 26 to remain on a family plan, the plan will be more expensive. This is especially true for autism, where therapy can cost as much as $72,000 annually and even $67,000 for a moderate case, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health.
The academic rule of thumb is that the average mandate increases premiums by 0.5%, which doesn't sound like much except that states usually go in for dozens. New York has more than 50, which means premiums are at least 20% more expensive than they might be if individuals and small businesses were allowed to make the cost-benefit tradeoffs for themselves. Premiums in New York are roughly twice the national average.
Since the worst of New York's coverage and pricing rules passed in 1994, the individual market has contracted by 96%. Research in 2009 by University of Minnesota economist Stephen Parente and Tarren Bragdon of the Manhattan Institute found that 36% of the New York uninsured would have coverage today if state regulations were merely in line with the national trend.
New York does not say that a company has to provide insurance for employees, just that any insurance company operating in New York must provide coverage for autism and other specific things. Should New York have any such mandates, or should it let the marketplace decide what insurance is offered?