February 1, 2007

Changes and reforms, hardly noticed...

A Health-Care Bargain - WSJ.com, By DAVID GRATZER
January 31, 2007; Page A12
Three years ago this month, insurance companies began offering Americans a new type of medical coverage: health savings accounts, which marry low-cost, high-deductible health insurance policies with pre-tax accounts to pay for day-to-day health care. But the anniversary is muted. A slew of reports have been critical, dismissing consumer-driven health care as unpopular and harmful; and with the Democrats in control of Congress, Washington's enthusiasm for the concept has cooled. Nevertheless, the Republicans should take credit where due. The White House ought to build on the growing success of HSAs, which are integral to the president's vision of "affordable and available" health care.

An executive of an upstart airline recently described her company as having three 757s, more than 200 employees, and one big headache: rising health-care costs. Thus, they made the switch to HSAs in 2006, and premiums rose just 5%, compared with a national average of over 8%. Such successes aren't making the news, but overwhelmingly negative stories are. A much reported Commonwealth Fund survey, for example, concluded that enrollment in consumer-driven plans is stagnant, people are grossly dissatisfied, and care is delayed. But the report was flawed on its face: For one, it was unrepresentative, drawn from a pool of "Internet users who have agreed to participate in research surveys."

Here's the untold story: Despite recent entry into the market, these plans are gaining popularity. Drawing on information from major insurance carriers, William Boyles, publisher of the Consumer Driven Market Report, estimates that enrollment in HSA-type plans or HRAs (a forerunner to health savings accounts) more than doubled since January 2006, to 13.4 million Americans. The estimate is plausible, as last year twice as many employers offered this coverage than in 2005, and the number of financial institutions supporting HSAs tripled.

Early data suggest good results...

It's maddening both that the Republican congress does not deserve its do-nothing reputation, since a LOT of good things have happened under Republican leadership, and also maddening that it DOES deserve it, since it should have done a lot MORE. Including expanding and improving the HSA program while it had the chance.

It's similarly maddening (since I'm a mood to feel aggrieved) that the President's attempts to create private Social Security accounts were denounced by middle-class lefties who themselves almost certainly have 401-k's and IRA's---which are government-sponsored private retirement accounts.

And I remember trying to present some good points about Bush to a would-rather-die-than-think leftish person of my generation, and I mentioned that we had finally passed HSA's (After they were blocked for decades by Dems). And he immediately said "Oh yes, we got our HSA right away!" But, Bush was still bringing the dark night of fascism down upon us...

* Update: Hey, I got an idea. For all those liberal dimwitski's who claim Bush wants to "wreck Social Security" we will cap the returns on their 401-K's to 1% annually! We will guarantee it! They should be so happy to be getting the deal they want ordinary workers to have...

Posted by John Weidner at February 1, 2007 8:42 AM

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