Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bill of Health

Arnold Kling, at WSJ.com, tells us [$]
The elected leaders of Massachusetts have come up with a novel solution for the vexing problem of paying for health care: abolish the laws of arithmetic. Their new plan is a perfect illustration of what happens when politicians approach a problem unconstrained by reality.

The plan includes tax incentives and penalties for employers and individuals to get everyone covered by a health-care policy. It also promises affordable health insurance for people with modest incomes, under a program yet to be negotiated between the state and private insurance companies. Nevertheless, three numbers stand out: $295, the annual penalty per worker a company must pay to the state if it does not provide health insurance; $0, the deductible on the typical state-subsidized health-insurance policy under the plan; and $6,000, the average annual expenditure on health care for a Massachusetts resident....

The question is this: What insurance company will provide coverage with $0 deductible, at an annual premium of $295, for someone whose health care costs on average $6,000 a year? The numbers imply losses of over $5,700, not counting administrative costs. To subsidize zero-deductible health insurance, state taxpayers might have to pay out about $6,000 per recipient.

There is no reason to expect firms to rush to offer a policy to uninsured employees. It makes more sense for them to pay their $295 penalty and hand the health-insurance problem back to the individual -- and ultimately to the taxpayers of Massachusetts
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