Friday, April 29, 2005

There are no coincidences, Part II

Dr Greenberg does, however, make one somewhat valid point (making him 1 for 5, not exactly Hall of Fame material): if all plans were individually owned, there’d be increased competition, and more efficient benefit usage. For more on this, see the posts on “Catastrophic vs Insular.”
Of course, he then goes on to break his one-point winning streak with this gem: “Individuals might belong to a health care plan for many years or decades.” Why? Oh, because plans would have an incentive to “invest in a person’s health.”
He’s kidding, right?
Carriers are impersonal, corporate entities which are designed to generate a profit for their shareholders. They do this by offering reasonable plans, at reasonable prices, for a reasonable time. Eventually, though, rates begin to climb (regardless of whether employer-based or individually owned), and adverse selection takes over. There’s also attrition due to age, family status, heck, where one lives. I would have expected to see this silliness from Paul Krugman, maybe, but a supposedly serious economist?!
Perhaps the most egregiously stupid idea put forth by Dr Greenberg is his Earned Income Credit Model of health care: in order to levelise the playing field for those with severe or chronic conditions, or advanced age, or maybe being pregnant, Dr G proposes a “risk-adjustment payment based on age, gender, disability, or prior hospitalizations.” In other words, government subsidized health insurance. Didn’t we already reject this idea?
So, his solution is to remove one 3rd party (the employer) and replace it with…wait for it…another 3rd party (the government). But it was the government’s tax policy that created the “problem” in the first place. So we’re back to square one, right?
Not exactly; now we’re actually behind the curve. That is, we’ve substituted one somewhat-inefficient 3rd party payor with a substantially-inefficient one. By putting the government in the position of subsidizing health plans, one guarantees that the cost of those plans will increase substantially (cf: college tuition).
Thanks to Dr Ford for bringing this interesting – if flawed – article to our attention.
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