Sunday, November 08, 2009

Not So Fast

Yes, I know, everyone's breathless over the passage of the House health reform bill. But just remember this: requiring people to pay for insurance does not mean they are going to get health care:
Because of costs, Massachusetts hasn’t solved the problem of guaranteeing access to health care. Even residents with coverage can’t afford medical treatment because of co-payments and the charges that insurance doesn’t cover, according to a September 2009 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation with headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
This is how you get a 97% coverage rate that looks good on paper: you force people to buy coverage that drains their budgets and costs so much to use that they can't afford to get the health care this was supposed to be about in the first place.

This is what I fear is coming down the pike from our millionaires in Congress, too, where a cap of $12,000 on premiums is considered affordable, and allowing insurance companies to charge older people twice what they charge younger ones is a fair deal.

And as for those vaunted cost savings? Not so much in the Bay State:
Private insurance premiums in the state rose more than 12 percent through the end of 2008, according to an Oct. 21 report in the New England Journal of Medicine co-authored by Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby. The cost of buying insurance increased 10 percent so far this year, the report said.

Price increases like these put pressure on the finances of businesses that provide insurance to employees, workers who pay part of that cost and individuals who buy their own coverage.

“President Obama is a visionary and he’s going to use Massachusetts as an example of how his ideas might play out,” said Regina Herzlinger, an economist at Harvard Business School in Cambridge. “But Massachusetts is a wealthy state and it can afford things that other states cannot. And even now Massachusetts is having trouble.”
I will grant you that Massachusetts put the cart before the horse and rushed everyone into eating an insurance plan before cost reductions had been worked out. But the essential flaw in the system--the idea that you can craft a device that will affordably grant health care to the masses while ensuring corporate profits--is going to cripple every attempt to fix it until it is recognized for the myth it is, and the free market is eliminated from basic health care coverage.

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