Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health care bill trade offs

Back in December I outlined what I saw as the major causes of high health care costs in America. While some of them can't be legislated away, like the increasing costs of new technologies, some were and some were not addressed by the President and the health care bill.

Stop covering routine checkups
This was not addressed. Our health care system will still suffer from the "cruise ship buffet" problem, where people consume more than they need.

Bring higher co payments into the equation
If this was in there, I couldn't find it. This would have been one way to thwart the previous cruise ship buffet problem by discouraging people from taking unnecessary treatments. In fact, it looks like it will be more difficult to have Health Savings Accounts because of the bill.

Allow people purchase health insurance from other states
This was not included, so states will still have oligarchy's protected from competition. However, this is not a federal law and there is nothing stopping individual states from changing this.

End mandated coverage requirements
Of course this one wasn't addressed. I realize it's unrealistic to expect Washington to push something through without having chunks of it compromised by special interest groups. Mandated coverage requirements, where insurance companies are forced to included specific treatments, are here to stay. My biggest fear is that alternative medicine hucksters will weasel their way into the state-run insurance plans.

Provide "death panels"
Doesn't look like triage teams will be taking center stage after all. Medicare will still be sunk into seniors during the last two years of their lives without helping them. Unfortunately, it would take a wizard to figure out when those last two years begin before the person actually dies.

Tax health care benefits
Yes! Finally a victory, but a Pyrrhic one at that. This was solved back in January, but with one fatal catch - it won't effect most of the people it should until 2018. Some wages were shielded from the taxman by taking the form of health insurance instead of dollar bills. I'm glad they closed this loophole, but I feel betrayed that union workers, including most government employees, will still enjoy that loophole for eight years. There was no logical reason for this exemption outside of the realm of politics and dirty deals.

Snag the freeloaders
I don't see anything direct, but the problem of people using the emergency room with no intention of paying for it may be solved by more people having some form of insurance. Thus, they will not need to do this. This will be rather simple to answer in the next five years - we will simply see if the rate of people doing this drops.

Cap malpractice insurance
Nope, tort reform was left out. I have heard plenty of lefties claiming that the right believes frivolous malpractice lawsuits are the main reason why our health insurance is so expensive, but I never once heard a conservative actually make that claim. It is a problem, just not the biggest one, and it still hasn't been solved.

Solve the pre-existing condition puzzle
They solved this in two ways. First, the formation of a high-risk insurance pool - this is an acceptable solution. Second, by forcing everyone to buy health insurance, and any company larger than 50 people must provide health care or get slapped with a fine of $2,000 for each person. This is an awful, crude solution. It looks like no one was clever enough to solve this riddle.

I've looked over the changes to our health care system that we should expect and there is one major problem I see. It's just more of the same top-down, over-regulated solutions, but now with a higher price tag.

Keep in mind Obama campaigned on a health care system that would cost less, and then once in office lowered the target to costing the same amount. It seems that's out the window too.

Still, as Greg Mankiw wrote, more people will be insured. This is the trade off for our lumbering, costly solution.

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