Saturday, July 14, 2007

Health care hits home

Still no baby. I'm starting to wonder if the wife is really pregnant or just covering up for some dramatic weight gain.

Anyway, this impending birth, coupled with a friend's recent mild heart attack, got me to thinking about health care. (And really being thankful that she and I are able to have health insurance because I don't know how anyone could have a baby or a heart issue without it.)

I always found it hard to believe that 47 million Americans have no health insurance. I'd really like to see that broken down to how many are children (who thus COULDN'T be independently insured), how many of the rest don't have health insurance because they CAN'T get it, and how many CHOOSE not to get it and simply roll the dice that they won't get sick. My suspicion is that if all 47 million of those folks broke down their expenses, a majority of them could afford health insurance even if it was in leiu of things like cable TV, cell phones, or even multiple vehicles.

"Oh, that's so cruel."
Not really. In my case, when I was in my mid-20s, fresh out of college and powerdrunk on my first "big boy" paychecks, health insurance was nothing more to me than some annoying forms to fill out before I found out how much vacation I could take. I had it, and fortunately I was reasonably healthy enough that I didn't realize until recently how fortunate I was to work at places that offered it.

Not that I'm going to sit here and defend insurance companies, but they are free-market entities that can choose whether or not they want to cover someone. And from a truly bottom-line standpoint, it would make the most business sense to cover the person who, evidence would indicate, would be LEAST likely to file a claim. Government encroachment on this business model reeks of socialism.

I understand that pre-existing conditions can sometimes skew people's rates and make health insurance unaffordable. And anyone who has to go into the hospital for anything more than an aspirin is easily looking at a bill equal to one or two years salary. No one can afford this.

So what is the government's role? Theories abound, of course, but I feel the gov't should simply be there to fill in the gaps; to take up the slack where people have no other options. That's consistent with the general theory of conservatism, which would seek to lay out options for people and thus grant them a degree of empowerment to solve their own problems. The bottom line is to give them the ability to choose, something liberals love to trot out when it applies to abortion (another thread, another time).

Tommy Thompson may have the answer, not that you'd know it by his moments in the national spotlight as a GOP presidential candidate. Tommy initiated a program called BadgerCare when he was governor of Wisconsin (1987-2001). BadgerCare, which began in July 1999, covers those who work for an employer who doesn't offer health insurance, but who make too much money to be covered by Medicaid. By covering those who make up to 185% of the poverty level (which, if the poverty level is typically set at $18,000, would reach up to $33,300). Its original goal was to cover 40,000 Wisconsinites, including 23,000 children, by the end of 1999.

The state Department of Health and Family Services published a report card on the program in 2005, and you'll see that the scores are generally reported as average-to-above-average.
Actually, there are some other status reports on it regarding coverage of kids, and from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation noting programs mimicked by New York, New Jersey and the Clinton administration. The Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured at the University of Michigan released a study calling BadgerCare a success. And even Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has called BadgerCare "a model for the nation."

(It irritates me that Thompson has made no mention of it, as health care is obviously such a hot topic right now. ... But, again, another thread, another time.)

I'll stay on this topic if I learn more about BadgerCare. But for now, wish Bubba a healthy recovery.

Gas today: $3.35/.45/.55/Diesel $3.09.

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