June 08, 2005

Got Health Insurance?

Families USA has sponsored a study on the added cost to private insurance premiums for those who get healthcare but are not insured. They try to answer the question: How much of my health care premium goes to pay for those people who get health care without paying for it?

Their answer: $922 of the annual cost ($77/mo) for a family's insurance premium and $341 of the annual cost ($28/mo) for single coverage, goes to cover unpaid health care expenses. And there's a 'viscious circle' in this system:

As the costs of care for the uninsured are added to health insurance premiums that are already rising steeply, more employers can be expected to drop coverage, leaving even more people without insurance. And as more people lose coverage and the cost of their care is added to premiums for the insured, still more employers will drop coverage. It’s a vicious circle that will not end until we as a nation take steps to solve the underlying problems.

For some reason, our nation seems unwilling to take the steps to solve this problem, and I don't understand why. No one wants people to go without health care, and the macroeconomy is already paying (both soft- and hard-dollars) for the health care of those who can't pay it themselves. It's a matter of formalizing and making more efficient a system of delivering the health care to those who are not covered by a private plan.

Maybe it breaks down in the implementation discussions? The funding of this sort of program would look like an employer-tax, and if administered centrally it could create a huge Federal government program - neither of which appeals to Republicans. But, it could probably be shown that eventually this is a simple shift of costs from the private healthcare plans to a public plan, and therefore a net zero cost; and why can't states administer such health care plans? Republicans like to promote states' rights, and states are accustomed to this sort of program (for example, state unemployment insurance programs are required by the Federal government).

Maybe that's why I am not a politician - the solutions most always look simple and obvious to me.