Friday, June 09, 2006

Pennsylvania Health Reform

Bloated. Dysfunctional. Sinking beneath waves of cost hikes.
That’s the modern U.S. health care system, in the view of many.

But reformers in Pennsylvania are working to transform it. Their sweeping universal coverage initiative is called The Pennsylvania Balanced and Comprehensive Health Reform Act.

The $40-to-$45 billion bipartisan package would extend full health, dental and prescription drug coverage to every citizen while eliminating co-payments, caps and deductibles. It would invest in a “culture of wellness,” offer tax rebates to volunteer emergency responders and defuse the medical malpractice crisis with a no-fault program.

Sounds great, but pardon me if I seem skeptical . . .

At its heart is a single-payer, state insurance plan supported chiefly by a 10 percent levy on employer payrolls and a 3 percent individual wellness tax.

So it appears to be a total of 13% of payroll unless there are things not yet revealed.

HealthAmerica president and chief executive officer Robert L. Dawson said last week in an e-mailed statement that universal coverage has dim prospects.

The concept “doesn’t address the underlying root causes that are threatening the health-care system today,” he said.

I will have to agree.

The driving force behind rising health insurance premiums is NOT who is administering the plan, but who is making a claim against the coverage, how often they make those claims, and for how much.

Today’s chaotic mishmash of intensely competing private providers, plans, forms and payment schedules breeds massive waste and inequity, said Lancaster software entrepreneur Charlie Crystle, who helped shape the Pennsylvania universal health-care model over the past couple of years.

“None of us knows which of us are going to get cancer. ... None of us knows which one of our kids is going to be autistic.

“We want employees to be anxiety free” and not have to worry about going broke trying to pay medical bills.

So you accomplish this with a “free” plan that covers everyone for everything. Does anyone think health care might become even more inequitable under this kind of plan?

Apparently not.

Private insurers, who contain costs by controlling health-care access, are invariably at odds with patients, Crystle said.

When coverage is free and there is absolutely no financial responsibility for treatment, health care will become even more rationed than it is now.

If you want to turn around the auto industry, or airline industry in this country, start offering free cars and free airline tickets to anywhere in the world. Not only do you get a free car but free gas, free tires, free oil changes for life.

Not only do you get a free airline ticket, but free hotel, free meals and free tickets to Disney World.

Now apply the same rules to health care.

This plan is a joke. If it passes, and I don’t think it will, at least not in this form, my guess is it will run aground in 3 – 5 years.

You don’t even have to cross borders to find what happens when the government gets involved in the health care system. Just look at TennCare to see another good idea gone bad.
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