Friday, October 07, 2011

Inigo Montoya meets Kathy Shecantbeserious

In the classic film "The Princess Bride," Mandy Patinkin's character is dubious of another character's understanding of a rather common term ("inconceivable!"). He famously observes: "You keep using that word. I dunna think it means what you think it means."

And so it is with the latest efforts to define the brave new world of health insurance, gummint-style:

"The federal government is taking on a crucial new role in the nation's health care, designing a basic benefits package for millions of privately insured Americans ... to keep it affordable."[emphasis added]

Madam Secretary, this word "affordable," I dunna think it means what you think it means.

Allow me to expand a bit:

Let's start with the government's definition of "basic." It includes coverage for "outpatient, hospital, emergency, maternal, newborn and children's care, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation, labs, prevention and wellness." All of which sound reasonable, but then, so does GPS, a CD player and cruise control. Get the picture?

There are folks who would like a new car, but realize that all the shiny "goodies" add to the price. These folks want a "basic benefits package" that includes 4 tires, a working engine, and decent mileage. Imagine what might happen if they were forced by the government to also purchase an extended warranty and sunroof. Well, that new car suddenly becomes unaffordable.

Same with insurance: many folks would be quite happy to have catastrophic coverage, maybe some reasonable co-pays, and coverage for more expensive med's (after all, generics are $4 most places now). What they want is to know that if they need chemo, or develop MS, or have a stroke, they won't lose the house. What they can't afford is all the other bells and whistles that abruptly take the plan out of their financial reach.

Especially since they'll face jail time if they refuse to buy.

The disconnect here is astounding:

"Few small employer plans currently offer comprehensive mental health coverage, for example. As such services are added, the total cost of the package should stay within a realistic budget target to be set by the administration. That would help keep premiums affordable."

Because price-controls have worked out so well in the past:

"The shortages were, in fact, a byproduct of price controls imposed by President Nixon in August 1971, which prevented oil companies from passing on the full cost of imported crude oil to consumers at the pump."

Now, substitute "health insurance" for "gasoline."

Any questions?
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