More on the Obama Health Care Plan

Details and reactions to the health care reform plan announced by Illinois Senator Barack Obama yesterday are beginning to emerge. The complete text of the plan is here. Ezra Klein has done yeoman’s service in dissecting the plan, analyzing it, and comparing it with some of the others that are making the rounds. Multiple posts. Keep scrolling.

I have what I think is a very simple question about the plan. There’s an estimate of the costs ($50-65 billion). How many presently uninsured people would the Obama plan insure?

It’s not a universal coverage plan so the estimates on numbers of uninsured people are, largely, window dressing. The old bait and switch. To figure out the value of the plan it’s important to know how many people will be covered (divide the total cost by the number of newly covered, etc.).

If it’s few enough people, there may be cheaper solutions. A remarkably high number of those without healthcare insurance are in just five states with disproportionately high numbers of uninsured people. Reforms in Medicaid in those states alone might insure as many presently uninsured people as the Obama plan.

Sen. Obama’s rivals lost no time in responding to the senator’s proposed plan:

Immediately after Obama unveiled his plan, Democratic candidate John Edwards called it “simply inadequate.”

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., commended Obama for “entering” the debate, but took a shot at the coverage of his plan, saying, “We have to achieve true universal health care.”

While Clinton’s efforts to promote universal health care nearly sank her husband’s presidency in 1993, in the upcoming election, a health-care plan is emerging as a “must have” for every serious candidate. Some say for Democrats, it needs to be universal.

“This is really an issue for everybody, because health-care costs are skyrocketing,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a health-care advocacy organization.

Just for the record, I think that our healthcare system has a problem but that it isn’t an insurance problem. Healthcare insurance is expensive because healthcare is expensive. I don’t think that healthcare costs can be brought down (without causing a public health problem) either by extending healthcare insurance to everybody—both sides of the cost equation need to be addressed. We need a substantially increased supply of healthcare as well as keeping the demand for healthcare within our means.

And no universal coverage plan will survive open borders.

4 comments… add one
  • Ken Magee Link

    Increasing the supply of medical workers is necessary but, having said that, medical school is very expensive and an increase in supply of doctors, one would think, will put downward pressure on their ability to earn enough income to cover both the cost of education and malpractice insurance. The government should come up with targeted student loans for those entering the medical and science fields with loan forgiveness for each year they work in their respective professions – amortized over 30-years. Of course, you would also need schools to invest in these areas to ultimately increase the numbers of students accepted into these competitive programs.

  • Thank you for the nice post.

  • Fletcher Christian Link

    Has anyone noted, anywhere, that one of the major causes of high health costs is ambulance-chasing lawyers?

    The connection is that doctors order almost certainly unnecessary tests and procedures in order to protect themselves from malpractise suits should the patient have a poor outcome.

    The practise of kickbacks to doctors ordering diagnostic procedures (order an MRI and we give you $100) probably has something to do with it, too.

    And another reason, which is repeated in the UK as the first two are probably not, is the implacably hostile attitude of the medical profession and the drug industry (and the drug industry’s lackeys, the regulatory authorities) to “alternative” medicine – some of which is the same as what all medicine was less than a lifetime ago.

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