Health care: "market" based solution fails AGAIN

Saturday, December 09, 2006 at 03:53 PM

Those blindly addicted to the idea that the "market" is next to Godliness keep pitching one stupid idea after another to solve the health care crisis in this country.  The latest: get yourself a high deductible health insurance plan then keep a real close eye on your health care expenses.

In la-la land, this is known as "encouraging consumer oversight." Turns out that in practice, this should be called "I ain't goin' to no damn doctor, 'cause I can't afford it.

From yesterday's LA Times: (emphasis added)

Report criticizes high deductibles
Consumer-driven health plans, pitched as a way to cut costs, encourage clients to pass up needed care, researchers find.
By Daniel Yi, Times Staff Writer
December 8, 2006

One of the most hotly contested issues in healthcare is whether patients will make more cost-conscious choices if they have a bigger financial stake in the services they receive.

A study released Thursday stoked the controversy further by casting doubt on the concept, a cornerstone of President Bush's plans to reform the country's healthcare system.

Many Republicans and the insurance industry argue that offering health plans with low premiums and high deductibles would go a long way toward reducing costs. Such plans would make insurance more affordable while giving people an incentive to take better care of their health and cut unnecessary expenses.

Opponents say such plans, which insure more than 10 million people by some estimates, exploit those who can't afford more comprehensive coverage.
But the evidence so far is inconclusive, in large part because high-deductible plans are still very new and generally estimated to account for less than 10% of the market.
The high-deductible concept took hold after Congress passed the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which allowed people with so-called consumer-driven health plans to open tax-sheltered savings accounts earmarked for medical expenses.

According to a report released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund and the Employee Benefit Research Institute, two of the country's most prominent voices on healthcare issues, high-deductible plans do little to grow the ranks of the insured and may be keeping people from getting needed care. People in high-deductible plans reported being more likely to postpone care or skip it altogether because of concerns about the expense.

"Is this really helping the health system evolve or are lower-income people simply being forced to choose less care?" asked Sara Collins, a coauthor of the report, which was based on an Internet survey of a nationally representative sample of privately insured adults.

The survey also said those in high-deductible plans were no more likely to have been uninsured before enrolling -- about one in five compared with a quarter of those enrolled in comprehensive plans with lower deductibles.

The report was immediately assailed by the insurance industry, which contested many of the findings.
Controlling the supply of medical services through a managed-care system has largely failed, with consumers abandoning once-popular health maintenance organizations, said Michael Thompson, a healthcare expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "We need to look at this from [the] demand side as well," he said.

You bet the insurance industry assailed the report.  They'll assail the next one, too, and the one after that, and the one after that.

How long does it take Americans to realize they've been sold the health care version of the Brooklyn Bridge, when every other civilized country in the world figured it out years ago?  Is it any wonder that other countries look at us with increasing amazement as they watch "the world's richest country" tear apart at the seams and refuse to do do anything about the rending because it would violate some "free market" myth/fantasy?