Sunday, June 21, 2009

IBD: Breakdown of the Health Uninsured

Make sure to read this IBD editorial.

This is in line with analysis I have seen before, that if you take out illegal aliens, those who can afford health insurance but decide not to purchase it, and those who are only temporarily without insurance while between jobs, the number of uninsured drops from 47 million to somewhere in the 10-20 million range, depending on the estimate. You can cut the number down even further if you exclude the people who are eligible for government programs but have not taken advantage of them. After all of this, you end up with 2-5% of the population that is uninsurable or falls into a gap where government assistance still does not help enough to afford insurance in states with expensive health insurance.

If you wanted to attack these reasons for uninsurance, you would:
  • Enforce immigration laws.
  • Enact some form of an individual mandate to purchase at least basic catastrophic health insurance (with similar justifiction to mandating all drivers maintain car insurance, although I would be really nervous that this mandate would not be structured right). Withhold employee's portion toward paying for this from paycheck similar to FICA witholdings.
  • Increase health insurance portability, mainly by breaking the link between jobs and health insurance. The best step to take to achive this is to level the playing field by extending a tax deduction or credit for health insurance to everyone, not only those who receive insurance through their employer (this is what McCain proposed during the 08 presidential campaign). Employers could still provide benefits that helped pay for your insurance, but instead of being stuck with the employer group one-size-fits-all plan, you would have much a better choice to pick the best plan for you from your employer or the private market.
  • Do a better job educating those eligible for public assistance.
  • Enact free market reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance. Expand HSA's, encourage insurance companies to increase copays and make them percentage based (so consumers have incentives to shop around for best value) in exchange for lower insurance premiums, and encourage health providers -- and other private groups -- to increase price and quality transparency so that consumers can truly choose the best value for them. Reduce the number of mandates. Allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines. Enact tort-reform to cap the amount of non-economic awards in frivolous lawsuits -- every dollar that doctors have to pay in liability lawsuit awards or for liability insurance is a dollar that is passed along to consumers in the form of higher health insurance premiums. Stop cost-shifting the failing Medicare program's costs to the private insurers by underpaying doctors for care provided to Medicare patients -- this forces providers to raise prices for everyone else to stay afloat, inflating health insurance premiums in the private individual and group markets. Allow nurses and physician assistants to provide more care that they are capable of providing instead of mandating that only a more expensive doctor can provide it.
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