31 January 2007

Insurance breaks the bank

Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, says in a guest edit in the Boston Globe that we can't fix the system with band-aides. She says the states' reforms haven't come close to fixing the problem.
Though well-intentioned, plans like [Massachusetts'] all have the same fatal flaw: They offer no workable mechanism to control costs, mainly because they leave the private insurance industry in place. Yet, soaring costs are the fundamental problem ; lack of coverage follows from that. Already the Massachusetts Connector is having difficulty holding premiums down to the levels forecast when the plan was enacted. Even if they are held down at the start, there is little to stop insurers from raising them afterward , shrinking benefits, or both. It will take a large and costly bureaucracy to ride herd on all the ways to game this system. Perhaps the biggest risk is that failure will give universal care a bad name, just as the failure of the Clinton plan did 13 years ago. (That plan, too, made the mistake of giving the private insurance industry a central role.)

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