“Free Market” Health Care

There is a lot of talk these days around health care in our country.  Utah is no exception.  David Clark, House Speaker R-Santa Clara, UT, has drafted a bill for  the upcoming Utah Legislative session.

An article in Monday’s Salt Lake Tribune describes the failed “Health Exchange” for insurers and Clark’s bill:

Insurers can sell plans through the exchange or on the open market. But because they calculate premiums differently “inside” and “outside” the exchange, disparities of up to 130 percent appeared.

Clark has drafted a bill that would merge the two small-group markets into one. Starting in July, insurers could only offer their small-group health benefit plans through the exchange. And they could no longer take into account employees’ pre-existing health conditions when calculating their premiums.

Instead, insurers would have to base a group’s rates on a modified community rating — factors such as employees’ ages and geographic location. Clark has added tobacco usage, body mass index (BMI) and management of blood pressure and diabetes to encourage better lifestyle choices.

The Exchange proved to be inefficient, with cumbersome application processes and purchased plans resulting in higher premiums which, passed on the employees and their familes, is not an option for improved health care insurance.

For sure Utah’s small businesses and individuals are still being hit hard and the “fixes” to date have not offered assurances for better health care insurance.

In coming years, the exchange will be open to individuals, but the initial focus has been on small businesses hit hard by rising premiums. The state’s plan is to eventually allow all Utahns to choose their own plan, and use contributions from employers and other groups to pay for it.

“We are migrating the market,” Clark said. “We’ve already made the decision legislatively and policy wise. We are moving from a defined benefit to a defined contribution market. We’re doing this incrementally, but the finish line is the entire insurance market migrates to that model.”

Take a look at the Utah Health Policy Project’s statistics published on its website about Utah’s uninsured (with “new data coming soon”).   The bottom line is that no matter what source you are examining, there are still too many people uninsured and unable to access health care.  Further, Utah’s children are being hit hard.  According to the published statistics,

Between 2001-06 the uninsured rate among Utah children grew by 63.3%. It grew even faster, by 90.4%, for low-income (<200% poverty level) Utah children.

UHPP also has a page of stories and testimonials from Utahns abuot health care.

Health care story – Eric Spencer from Lehi, Utah

When will the health care of people stop being talked about in the “market”?  Health care is a basic human right that has no place in the “market”.   Everyone should have access to health care and should not have to be faced with the decision of choosing between other essential issues such as food, rent, and job/career and education when considering how to obtain the care needed.

(Cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

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