Insurance companies will still game the system under "health" "care" "reform." Who knew?
And [a|the] public [health insurance]? [plan|option] won't make a damn bit of difference. Even WaPo's figured this out (and do click through and read to the end for a totally buried quote-of-the-decade from Baucus):
Any health-care overhaul that Congress and President Obama enact is likely to have as its centerpiece a fundamental reform: Insurers would not be allowed to reject individuals or charge them higher premiums based on their medical history.
But simply banning medical discrimination would not necessarily remove it from the equation, economists and health-care analysts say.
If insurers are prohibited from openly rejecting people with preexisting conditions, they could try to cherry-pick through more subtle means. For example, offering free health club memberships tends to attract people who can use the equipment, says Paul Precht, director of policy at the Medicare Rights Center.
In fact, there's an entire consulting industry devoted to helping insurance companies figure out cherrypicking techniques, and train employees how to use them. Like:
Being uncooperative on insurance claims can chase away the chronically ill....
And to avoid patients with costly, complicated medical conditions, health plans could include in their networks relatively few doctors who specialize in treating those conditions, said Mark V. Pauly, professor of health-care management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
By itself, a ban on discrimination would not eliminate the economic pressure to discriminate.
"It would probably increase the incentive for cherry-picking," Pauly said. "I'm strongly motivated to try to avoid you if I'm not allowed to charge you extra."
A straightforward way to reduce gamesmanship is to standardize benefit packages, Precht wrote in a July report.
In other words, plain vanilla policies. Exactly what the Dems rejected in financial reform. Na ga happen.
Unless lawmakers tackle the problem effectively [for a constituency other than the insurance companies], a reformed [sic] health-care system could continue to reward insurers for avoiding rather than treating illness. It also could perpetuate existing economic penalties for health plans that do a better job of covering the sickest patients. They tend to attract costlier members, which can force them to raise premiums, fueling a cycle that can make it harder for the severely ill to get affordable coverage.
AHIP has been trying to shape the legislation in ways that could help insurers attract the healthy and avoid the sick, though it has given other reasons for advancing those positions. In a recent letter to Baucus, AHIP President Karen Ignagni said benefit packages "should give consumers flexible options to meet diverse needs."
Ah. "Flexible options" means cherrypicking. Good to have that translated. The story ends with this tremendous quote from Baucus:
"These regulations are the first step to a market where consumers can be confident in the coverage they purchase," he said.
Only "the first step"? Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Baucus the excrementalist! He's not saying consumers [not patients, mind you] will be confident; he's saying that at some undetermined point in the future they might be confident.