It’s a bit slow in the blogosphere on this Veteran’s Day – maybe not just because of the holiday, but also as a reaction to the past week’s overwhelming pace of activity. But never fear, it’s never entirely quiet out there.
Two bloggers are taking critical inventory of new state laws governing health insurance and the uninsured. Insure Blog’s Henry Stern is looking at “state experiments” in health reform. He focuses on a program in Ohio that is supposed to insurane an additional 52,000 residents by capping rates. After the program started, one Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield carrier announced it was no longer selling a particular plan in the state. Stern concludes, “So what’s the lesson here? When you restrict carriers’ ability to compete in the market, consumers end up with fewer choices. Maybe that was the point of this exercise (wonders the cynic), but it certainly does not bode well for similar efforts on a national scale.”
Louise Norris ponders another state law, this time in Colorado, that prohibits underwriting small group premiums. Norris thinks there’s some flaws in the law’s design that could raise prices: “But while HB1355 was beneficial to groups with unhealthy members, the majority of small groups in Colorado had a discount before HB1355 took effect. And if those groups are unable to afford their new, higher rates, they can opt to cancel their coverage – which leads to higher prices for groups that remain covered. On a national level, as far as individual health insurance is concerned, HB1355 should be considered a warning sign. Getting rid of medical underwriting is the right, and fair, thing to do. But not if people can come and go as they please in the insurance system.”
Elsewhere, The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn reports that a drug industry deal with the administration on health reform could actually lead to an increase in pharmaceutical prices. Cohn looks at a new report from the consulting group IMS Health, which found “that the drug industry will see average annual growth of 3.5 percent between 2008 and 2013.”
Hot Air’s Allah Pundit ruminates about former President Clinton’s talk with Senate Democrats: “I think he’s right that they’re winning, actually, if ‘winning’ is defined in terms of whether a bill passes or not. The abortion death struggle will give Reid a headache and they’ll probably have to end up dropping the public option, but Clinton’s strategy is a sound one: Pass anything you can pass now, then spend next year doing whatever it takes to woo voters and minimize the inevitable GOP gains in the midterms.”
James Capretta on Critical Condition examines the health overhaul bills’ efforts to contain costs and concludes, “The federal government, subject as it is to the constraints of politics, can’t do it. The only way to slow the pace of rising costs without sacrificing quality is by building a functioning marketplace, with cost-conscious consumers driving the allocation of resources. The government must play an important oversight role in such a marketplace. But if we rely on politicians, or even commissions that answer to them, for cost control, what we will get is lower quality, not more efficiency.”
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., is guest posting on Marilyn Werber-Serafini’s blog about health care fraud and abuse. He asks, “Are the anti-fraud efforts contained in the leading Senate and House bills likely to produce significant savings? What sort of provisions should be contained in order to maximize savings?” Responders include Henry Aaron, John Goodman, Uwe Reinhardt and Marilyn Werber Serafini.
And Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Program, a veteran, reflects and points to a new Harvard study estimating 2,266 veterans died in part because they lacked health insurance and access to care. McCanne, a single-payer supporter, writes, “How can we continue to support a fragmented, dysfunctional financing system that allows some of our veterans (not to mention tens of thousands of others of us) to die merely because we have placed a higher priority on nurturing the private insurance industry than we have on improving access for everyone through a more effective health care financing system? Our veterans. How can we let them down like this?”