March 2, 2008 3:31PM

Anti‐​Universal Coverage Club in the NYT

Today's New York Times features an article by Kevin Sack that mentions the Anti-Universal Coverage Club and addresses the very question that Club members raise:

The skirmishing between the Democratic presidential candidates over the mechanics of universal health coverage will soon give way to a quite different general-election debate — about whether universal coverage should even be a national priority.

Sack notes that "at least twice as many Americans are estimated to die each year from medical errors as from lack of access to care."  He quotes economists Helen Levy and David Meltzer's conclusion that there is "no evidence" that expanding coverage would be the best way to improve health and save lives.  And he cites polling data (which I discuss here) showing that the public is not necessarily on board with the idea of universal coverage.

Sack also quotes Len Nichols, director of health policy studies at the New America Foundation, in support of universal coverage.  According to Nichols:

The right question is: would coverage expansion add enough social and economic value to merit the investment? The literature suggests a resounding yes.

The literature suggests no such thing.  If there is no evidence that expanding coverage would deliver the biggest improvement in health for the money, then expanding coverage could actually increase death and disability compared to a superior policy.  I'll be debating Nichols tomorrow at a meeting of the National Association of Business Economists.  Should be a good time.

Sack also quotes Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute as making skeptical comments about universal coverage.  I'll have to ask Antos if he wants to be counted as a member of the Anti-Universal Coverage Club.