The Manhattan Institute’s David Gratzer explains in the D.C. Examiner why health insurance premiums will rise, not fall as President Obama promised, if Obamacare becomes law: coverage mandates that force everyone to buy insurance for medical procedures that few people use.

Think of mandates as the earmarks of the health-care world.  For decades, state legislators rewarded health-provider lobbyists with laws forcing every health-insurance policy to cover certain services, even if most policyholders won’t ever use them.  Their excuse was that doing so helps consumers by setting a “basic standard” for insurance.

And so it came to pass that circumcision must be covered as an essential health-insurance benefit in New Mexico, just as you’re covered there for “oriental medicine” whether you’re of German, Peruvian or Somali ancestry.

In 15 states, every plan must cover in vitro fertilization – even if the policyholder is a single, gay, 55-year-old man.  New York has 51 such mandates; Minnesota, 68.  Utah residents somehow survive with only 29.  Tellingly, for a 30-year-old man, basic coverage in New York costs up to three or four times more than basic policies in neighboring, mandate-lite Connecticut.

At first glance, mandates sound good for patients.  In fact, most mandates are a gift to providers and, ultimately, big insurance companies. Maryland’s smoking cessation mandate means every insurer can legally charge every state policyholder as if they might choose to quit smoking, even if they never started in the first place.

National Institute of Health Statistics data in 2002 showed that only 4% of Americans had been treated with acupuncture in their entire lives – yet that didn’t stop California from imposing an acupuncture mandate.

And of course…

The amended ObamaCare House bill now includes a mandate for prosthetics and orthotics equipment.  Tuberculosis doesn’t merit a special line, but somewhere, a congressional representative felt foot care deserved a billion dollar mention in public law.

And that’s only the beginning, says Gratzer, because the House bill allows federal bureaucrats to establish even more mandates without a congressional vote.