Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Regular Health

Apparently the only thing happening in the world is health care. Better than dead celebrities and Harvard professors, I guess. For purely archival purposes (since I'm sure everyone has already seen it), here's Bill O'Reilly showing that he has no quantitative literacy:

I'm sure Jon Stewart had fun with that.

Turning to the White House, today they unleashed their eight things that need to be in any health care bill in order for Obama to sign it. Worth going over point-by-point:

No Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
Certainly this is a good thing, although I do wonder how much higher your premiums will be if, say, you have diabetes. Or put another way, you could certainly imagine an insurance company not denying you coverage but rather charging you an exorbitant amount for it because you're risky.

No Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
Ah, ask and ye shall receive, there will be a cap on expenses (I should note that I'm reading these as I post them). Okay, this raises a lot of questions, though. So, if there's only so much that you can be charged per year for health care, who picks up the rest? Is that cap a progressive cap (i.e. if you're rich, you have a higher annual cap)? And I'm no economist, but I do know that it is universally accepted that things like rent control are bad, as it creates a situation where there is not enough supply (or too much demand, or something...). I'd have to learn a lot more to know if these concerns would apply to health care.

No Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
This is a no brainer. While the rate limiting step for me getting a physical is remembering to do it, time constraints, etc., there are plenty of poor folks out there who probably do think twice about that extra twenty dollar co-pay, so anything to remove the barrier, the better. I do wonder, though, how does one define preventative? I imagine there are a lot of things that are in a gray area.

No Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
This is another no-brainer. The point of insurance is to pool costs so that we're all spreading out the risk for the few who get expensively ill.

No Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
Well, this helps half of us, and hurts half of us. Not sure this is terribly important.

No Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
Seems like this could have been folded into point two. This is starting to read like the ten commandments.

Extended Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
Fine with me, since a lot of youths continue to live with their parents post-college anyway, they might as well mooch health care coverage.

Guaranteed Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.
This basically covers the loop-hole where an insurance company could say hey, we're not denying coverage, we're just not renewing it.

Okay, that's the eight. They're benign enough to be fine. What they don't discuss, of course, is cost, which is the bulk of the reason why we're trying to reform the system in the first place.