August 19, 2005
People with little or no health coverage often don't receive preventive care and usually seek emergency care only after medical conditions become acute, say Jack Lewin, CEO of the California Medical Association and Ronald A. Williams, president of the Aetna insurance company. Absorbing the uncompensated costs of services for the uninsured has taken a financial toll on many health care facilities and resulted in cost shifting to those who have insurance.
This changing environment makes the concept of requiring individual coverage attractive:
- Individual coverage encourages personal responsibility by recognizing that those who can afford health coverage should purchase it, and it acknowledges the social responsibility to subsidize coverage for those who cannot.
- If properly structured, an individual coverage requirement not only would provide access to quality health care but also would ease the financial crisis facing health care.
Under an individual-coverage requirement:
- Many more Americans would benefit from the private-sector health care that most enjoy currently in our employer-based system.
- This would foster the adoption of consumer-directed health plans, which typically include high deductibles.
- These new plans create greater awareness of health care costs by providing consumers with better information about available treatment options, including the cost of these services.
- Consumers then can make the treatment choices that are right for them without the third party disconnect that divorces the consumer from costs.
- Consumer directed health coverage could be portable from workplace to workplace.
People who want more comprehensive coverage and can afford the higher premiums could choose to buy it. Those who could not afford even the most basic plan would receive subsidized coverage. The focus should be to get uninsured families covered without destabilizing the coverage of those already insured, say Lewin and Williams.
Source: Jack Lewin and Ronald A. Williams, "Cover Yourself!" Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2005.
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