Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is this anything? I don't think so.

I've seen a few articles on this particular "story" since Monday or so: the nation's leasing health insurance trade group has come out with a "plan" for covering the millions of Americans who lack health insurance. Snip from a Chicago Trib article:
The organization called on the federal government to spend an additional $300 billion over 10 years to expand public health programs for poor Americans, offer subsidies to working families to buy medical coverage, and support state health reform efforts. But there are no specifics on how the proposals would be financed or provisions for taming rapidly escalating costs.

The first priority should be providing insurance protection to almost all of the nation's children in three years, Ignagni said. Then the focus should turn to programs that will aid adults, including new tax-advantaged accounts for people who purchase insurance on their own.

With the Democrats taking charge of Congress after last week's elections, the industry plan helps set the stage for action on health reform. Democrats have long considered health care a priority and signaled a keen interest in expanding medical coverage.

Is it just me, or is everything in the insurance industry's courageous proposal completely consistent with the industry's interests? It's kinda like the auto industry calling for all Americans to have access to a car.

The articles I've seen characterize the industry's release as a sharp counterpoint to the Harry-and-Louise ads that tanked the Clinton plan a dozen years ago. I could never figure out why it was that the industry opposed the Clinton plan. If I remember right, the plan would have essentially pushed for more employers to offer coverage to their employees, meaning it would have pushed more customers into the waiting arms of the insurance industry.

The only thing that seems not obviously in the industry's interest is the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid. But even there, the industry stands to reap a substantial benefit: more sick people get access to care before they get so sick that they end up in the ER. Right now, the compulsory ER "charity care" is paid for by jacking up the charges to those who have coverage. If you can stop or at least slow down the stampede of poor people through the ER, you can slow down the growth in premiums that's led so many employers (and some employees) to drop their health coverage.

Wake me up when the insurance industry puts out the press release explaining how to pay for the expansion in coverage.

1 comment:

Charles-A. Rovira said...

The problem is that the systems are systemantically constructed to maximize the intake of funds while minimizing the expenditure.

Notice something missing in there? Where's the patient?

In a purely socialist system, you'd find the patient but no doctors because, not being sick, they're still motivated by the necessities of life, which take money of course.

The solution, if it can be called that, requires the apportioning of a fixed portion of the economy equal to the proportion of the sick to the healthy, which sets an absolute upper limit on resources (the socialist part) and then lets economic efficiencies of a market system take care of the rest (the capitalist part.[Plus there are various ways to game the system which are used by the suppliers of health care against the distributors of health care. {In trying to maximize their profits, they are shameless. But accountancy makes no moral judgments, curse it.}])

Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' works fine until its gets hit with a hammer.

Unfortunately, we are the pain of the broken knuckles.