AILING HEALTH POLICIES
October 23, 2006
Texas has more uninsured people than any other state, but the candidates for governor have few solutions for fixing the problem, says John C. Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).
For starters, none seem aware that politicians in Austin are the principal reason why so many are uninsured. Consider:
- State regulations raise the cost of health insurance; national studies estimate that as many as one in four of the uninsured lacks insurance precisely because of cost-increasing regulations.
- The NCPA estimates that the uninsured get free care worth about $1,500 per person, per year -- or about $6,000 for a family of four.
- Another aggravating factor is the expansion of Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program; economists estimate that for every additional dollar spent on Medicaid, private health insurance shrinks by about 50 to 75 cents nationwide.
The current system is replete with inefficiencies and perverse incentives. It needs a complete overhaul. But none of the candidates seem ready to step up to the challenge, says Goodman:
- Two candidates -- Gov. Rick Perry and Carole Keeton Strayhorn -- propose to expand Medicaid and CHIP to varying degrees; in the process, they would cost taxpayers more money, do little to reduce the number of uninsured and do next to nothing to improve the quality of care that poor families receive.
- Kinky Friedman would spend more money on expanded government insurance and pay for it by imposing a 1 percent tax on health plans and health providers (i.e., he would tax the sick).
- Chris Bell wants copy the Canadian system; and his method for achieving it -- lobby Washington -- is a red herring, since emergency rooms in Toronto look no better than they do here.
What we really need is a radically new approach, says Goodman. As governors in other states have shown, encouraging private insurance can help increase coverage, not discourage it.
Source: John C. Goodman, "John C. Goodman: Ailing health policies," Dallas Morning News, October 22, 2006.
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