The news story “Pa. House bills aimed at protecting consumer health care access, lawmakers say” (Oct. 3 and TribLIVE.com) reported on state lawmakers proposing a law that would bind UPMC and Highmark if they do not end their dispute.
House Bill 1621 would require integrated delivery networks to contract with “any willing insurer.” This is a subtle twist on the “any willing provider” laws in many states, but in essence they are the same. I believe, as a student of health policy and management, that any type of “any willing insurer” or “any willing provider” law hinders competition and would be harmful to patients.
In theory, this bill would enable patients to visit any provider they wish by forcing the provider to accept the patients' insurance. However, myriad economic studies inform us that laws prohibiting exclusive networking between payer and provider only inhibit both parties' ability to compete and provide lower-cost services. The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice have also stated that these types of laws harm patients by limiting discounts that can be passed on to consumers. In reality, this bill would probably result in collusion between insurance providers, raising costs and leaving patients with nowhere to go.