Objective. To understand and compare the trends in mandated benefits laws in the United States.
Data Sources/Study Setting. Mandated benefit laws enacted in 50 states and the District of Columbia for the period 1949–2002 were compiled from multiple published compendia.
Study Design. Laws that require private insurers and health plans to cover particular services, types of diseases, or care by specific providers in 50 states and the District of Columbia are compared for the period 1949–2002. Legislation is compared by year, by average and total frequency, by state, by type (provider, health care service, or preventive), and according to whether it requires coverage or an offer of coverage.
Data Collection/Extraction Method. Data from published tables were entered into a spreadsheet and analyzed using statistical software.
Principal Findings. A total of 1,471 laws mandated coverage for 76 types of providers and services. The most common type of mandated coverage is for specific health care services (670 laws for 34 different services), followed by laws for services offered by specific professionals and other providers (507 mandated benefits laws for 25 types of providers), and coverage for specific preventive services (295 laws for 17 benefits). On average, a mandated benefit law has been adopted or significantly revised by 19 states, and each state has approximately 29 mandates. Only two benefits (minimum maternity stay and breast reconstruction) are mandated in all 51 jurisdictions and these were also federally mandated benefits. The mean number of total mandated benefit laws adopted or significantly revised per year was 17 per year in the 1970s, 36 per year in the 1980s, 59 per year in the 1990s, and 76 per year between 2000 and 2002. Since 1990, mandate adoption increased substantially, with around 55 percent of all mandated benefit laws enacted between 1990 and 2002.
Conclusions. There was a large increase in the number of mandated benefits laws during the managed care “backlash” of the 1990s. Many states now use mandated benefits to prescribe not only what services and benefits would be provided but how, where, and when services will be provided.