Thursday, June 10, 2004

New Poll Shows that Pollsters can Confuse People about Health Care

AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans) decided to launch an ad campaign based on poll results that said, among other things:

* Believe the medical liability system favors trial lawyers at the expense
of patients.
* Want to encourage the adoption of evidence-based medicine.
* Support disclosure of medical safety and quality information.
* Favor tax-free health care accounts.
* Support private-sector choices for seniors under Medicare.

Of course, it might not be reliable to poll by asking the question "Do you believe that trial lawyers are getting rich off medical malpractice at the expense of patients?" I can easily imagine asking, "Should doctors who kill or severely injure their patients due to their own gross negligence have to compensate their patients?" getting a much different result.

As for tax-free health accounts, they are great. At least, they're great if you're rich and need another kind of account to shelter some of your gross income. For the rest of health care consumers, they pull the rich and healthy out of group plans, which cause the premiums of the poor and the sick to increase even more. You see, to qualify for the health savings accounts, you have to have a privately-purchased health plan (NOT through your employer) with a high deductible (over $1000 for individuals and $2000 for families). Since the individual health care market is largely unregulated, insurance companies won't cover any preexisting conditions, which means that the only people who will opt into these plans will be the healthy. With declining numbers of healthy people in group plans, the plans start to suffer a slow spiral of adverse selection, where more and more healthy people opt out of the plans as the premiums go up and up. As the pool of people becomes, on average, sicker and poorer, the insurance company will continue to raise the premium to accurately reflect the risk of the pool. This drives more healthy people into private coverage.

Eventually, this will actually price more people out of health insurance, rather than expanding coverage of the uninsured.

Finally, the private sector probably wants nothing to do with Medicare, since Medicare's reimbursement rates are much lower than privately managed insurance plans. What's more, it's time that we recognize that the profit motive has no place in this system; it encourages providers to deny coverage and care in order to maximize profit, when our goal should be to expand coverage and care in order to maximize health.

We owe that to each other.

(You can see the story here, via Yahoo).


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