Tag: Health

Setting the Record Straight on Health Care Reform

President Obama took to the airwaves Wednesday in an effort to promote his plan for a national government-run health care system. He answered questions on rising costs, taxing benefits, and many other issues during an ABC News special on health care reform called “Questions for the President: Prescription for America.”

After live-blogging the ABC special, Cato scholars Michael D. Tanner and Michael F. Cannon dissect the president’s health care plan point by point.

Three Worthwhile Health Care Videos

The first comes from the group Patients United Now.  Keep this video in mind the next time you hear someone say that a new “public option” is not about a government takeover of the health care sector.

The next video comes from the Independence Institute in Colorado.  It is a nice complement to my colleague Michael Tanner’s recent study, “Massachusetts Miracle or Massachusetts Miserable: What the Failure of the ‘Massachusetts Model’ Tells Us about Health Care Reform.”

Finally, a really disturbing video showing Christina Romer, chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, refusing to admit to a congressman that the president’s reform plan would oust Americans from their current health plans.

It’s a shame what politics does to really smart people.

Cato Experts Live-Blog ABC News Health Care Special

Cato health care experts Michael D. Tanner and Michael F. Cannon provided live commentary Wednesday night for ABC’s “Prescription for America,” a special program from within the White House on Obama’s health care reform proposal.

You can watch the program, and follow along below.

For more, visit Healthcare.Cato.org.

How Many Uninsured? It Does Not Matter

As my colleague Michael Cannon discusses below, in today’s WSJ Online, Carl Bialik examines the data on how many Americans do not have health insurance. Discussions like this one will be rehashed repeatedly during the coming health care debate, but they miss the crucial point: the U.S. should not expand government subsidy for health insurance whether the number of insured is 46 million or just 46.

The economics argument for subsidizing health insurance rests on the claim that private insurance markets do not provide fairly priced insurance. This is allegedly because insurers cannot distinguish the good health risks from the bad health risks and thus price insurance at a level only the bad risks are willing to pay.

This claim of “asymmetric information” is incredibly unpersuasive: absent regulation to the contrary, an insurance company can require any medical tests it wants and learn an insurance applicant’s health at least as well as the applicant. It can also condition coverage on relevant behavior, such as not smoking or maintaining a reasonable weight.

The problem is thus that insurance companies can determine all too well who is a good health risk and who is not, so they will price insurance accordingly if the law permits. This strikes many people as unfair, so they want to subsidize insurance for those born with unhealthy genes.

If insurance subsidies had few unintended consequences, this might be a reasonable form of social insurance. The problem is that subsidizing insurance exacerbates moral hazard, the tendency of people with insurance to consume too much health care. This is a crucial reason for rapidly increasing health expenditures.

Policy must therefore accept a trade-off: subsidizing health insurance will increase some people’s perceptions of fairness, but it will make the health care market less efficient.

A reasonable balancing of these two concerns suggests subsidizing insurance for the truly poor, but no more. In fact, the U.S. already does that via Medicaid. The uninsured are mainly people with too much income to qualify for Medicaid, or people eligible but fail to apply. Thus expansion of subsidized insurance to the currently uninsured, whatever their number, is likely to generate substantial inefficiency relative to any increase in “fairness” it creates.

Cato Health Care Experts Live-Blogging Tonight’s ABC News White House Special

Tonight at 10:00 PM EST, ABC News will broadcast a “special report from the White House” on President Obama’s plan to revamp the nation’s health care system. Cato scholars Michael D. Tanner and Michael F. Cannon will offer live commentary and analysis when the program begins.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear another voice in the health care debate.

Sign up below:


For more on Cato’s research on health care, visit Healthcare.Cato.org


How Many Uninsured Are There?

The Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy tackles the question:

The Census Bureau estimates that the number of uninsured amounts to 45.7 million people. But the agency might be over-counting by millions due to faulty assumptions…

Even though legislation won’t cover many of them, illegal immigrants are especially difficult to enumerate: Few raise their hands to be counted. Prof. [Jonathan] Gruber estimates they make up about 13% of the uninsured today, or nearly six million people of that 45 million number…

Of the rest, some people are eligible for health insurance but don’t know it and many can afford it but don’t want it. About 43% of uninsured nonelderly adults have incomes greater than 2.5 times the poverty level, according to a report released Tuesday by the business-backed Employment Policies Institute.

He left out a few things, though.

The estimate of 46 million uninsured, which comes from a less-than-ideal government survey, has been the occasion of a fraud on the public.  For 20 years, the Church of Universal Coverage told us that 40-some million Americans are uninsured for the entire year.  Then, experts including the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said that no, 40-some million is the number who are uninsured on any given day, and a lot of those people quickly regain coverage.  The number of Americans who are uninsured for the entire year is actually 20-30 million.  Yet the Church of Universal Coverage kept using that 40-some million estimate as if nothing had happened – even though the meaning of that estimate had completely changed.

The Congressional Budget Office also reports that as many as 15 percent of those 20-30 million chronically “uninsured” are eligible for government programs, so they’re effectively insured.

According to economists Mark Pauly of the University of Pennsylvania and Kate Bundorf of Stanford, as many as three-quarters of the uninsured could afford coverage but choose not to purchase it.  Again, according to the Congressional Budget Office, 60 percent of the uninsured are under age 35, and 86 percent are in good-to-excellent health.

Government intervention has made health insurance unnecessarily expensive for them, so these folks quite sensibly don’t want to be ripped off.  Mandating that they buy coverage is really about hunting them down and taxing them.