Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Candidate Review - Health Care - Joe Biden

Joe Biden, like Obama, has a long and complex page on Health Care. This is why I am somewhat wary of this one, because I feel like a punk if I don't read the whole thing, but being incredibly lazy, I don't want to go to the trouble of reading it.

Don't laugh; it's laziness like that that has made Stupid Enough Unexplanation Americas 434th most trusted news source.

Anyway I just read his plan and he has four key components.
1. Cover all Children
2. Access for Adults
3. Reinsurance For Catastrophic Cases
4. Encouraging Prevention and Modernization
The first one is straightforward enough; the second is giving the uninsured the option to buy into the Senate system - which to give it's official name, is called the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan. They can buy in on a sliding scale depending on their means.

The third reflects the problem of one member on an insurance plan developing a big problem - say Cancer. Obviously in a big company that might not be too big a deal, but in a small company that can be a big problem.
By creating a federal reinsurance system for catastrophic costs, the risk and burden of covering these patients are spread among the general population, instead of smaller subgroups of employees.

. . . Ken Thorpe, a professor at Emory University, has estimated that a stop-loss plan that pays 75 percent of claims above a catastrophic threshold would, on average, reduce the variance in claims costs by more than 50 percent. Reducing the risk factor for health plans would translate into lower health insurance premiums.
Make a certain amount of sense; but of course Free Market Conservatives would counter by saying that risk is part of the market place. You can't take out the risk without taking out the ability to succeed.

The fourth one contains a lot of interesting ideas as well, such as standardizing billing and claims.
When the Utah Health Information Network (UHIN) was created in 1994, health officials there estimated the state could save $100 million to $200 million per year by switching to a common system for medical billing. UHIN created a computer system that allows the many different billing systems used by doctors, insurers and hospitals to communicate with one another. But the network also required substantial cooperation from Utah's competing insurers. They agreed, for example, to cut a list of 900 codes for accepting or denying medical claims down to 90 and also agreed on common definitions.

The cost of health insurance has remained flat in Utah while it has increased an average of 13 percent per year in the rest of the United States. Several states are already studying what Utah was able to accomplish.
This reminds me a lot of Clinton and the West Wing - a bit of policy wonkery - but the good kind of policy wonkery - the kind that actually makes things better.

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