An excellent news story in today’s New York Times highlights the problems with government regulation of health insurance in Maine, problems that, the reporter notes, would likely occur if the U.S. Senate’s and the U.S. House of Representatives’ versions of health insurance “reform” were implemented.

Two key paragraphs:

To help people like Mr. Sargent, the state is one of 17 that limit how much insurers can charge people for being older, and it does not allow exclusions for previous illnesses — both policies that are part of national reform proposals.

But one result is that premiums for younger people are relatively high. Although national proposals would require that nearly everyone get coverage or pay a penalty, Maine’s Legislature rejected such a mandate so many young people do not or cannot buy insurance — further skewing the insured pool to sicker and older people and making premiums that much higher.

I was almost expecting to see the reporter, Gardiner Harris, quote Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous line that the states are “laboratories of democracy.” Unfortunately, very few people seem to learn from the lab experiments. When I gave a talk on health care at Metropolitan State College of Denver last week, a woman in the audience asked me if I thought we could learn from the problems of Massachusetts. “Shouldn’t we,” she asked, “learn from what happens there before we proceed on a national level with similar changes?” I agreed. Interestingly, as the above link points out, even though Brandeis authored the quote, he didn’t really agree with it. As Michael Greve writes, “His idea of experimentation was all trial–and never an error.” Which, of course, means that it’s not experimentation in the usual sense.