Good News, Bad News

Sixty large companies are joining forces to offer group health coverage for the uninsured, the New York Times reports. The idea is simple: by putting all of these people into a risk pool together, it becomes possible to offer more affordable insurance than they could buy on their own.

The logic of the idea is quite simple. Individual health coverage is expensive and unreliable because the insurer is looking at you as a single individual with certain risk factors. Should you do anything crazy like, say, get sick, you're likely to get your policy canceled or see your costs go up. By spreading the individual risks over a large pool of people, the plans can remain less expensive on an individual basis.

The 3 million people who will be eligible for this plan are about 7% of the 45 million uninsured people in the United States. Of course, the plans won't be affordable to all of these people... but they will bring health care coverage within reach of some of them.

I don't want to criticize the employers in question for taking this step - it is movement in the right direction - but what I kept wondering as I read the article was, "wouldn't it make sense to offer something like this to everyone without insurance?" Now, who would do that? The government is the most likely candidate, simply because the government is pretty well equipped to manage this and sign up insurers.

Of course, that sounds a little bit like national health care (though it's not) and would lead to the predictable complaints that the government is going to "control" our health care - robbing us all of the freedom of belonging to an employer-sponsored plan in which we can only see certain doctors on an ever-changing list that is never provided to us in an accurate form, with co-payments that randomly change and requirements for pre-approvals by the insurer that, if not completed precisely according to that month's procedure, result in denial of coverage. I mean, it would be onerous to move to a system where every doctor participated in a state or federal plan to which everyone belonged, ensuring that everything was covered, even if you went to hospital A instead of hospital B.

I realize that it is against the fashion of the times to suggest that there are some things that the government is well equipped to do - that, in fact, the reason we have governments is to do some of those things - but so it goes.

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