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US Residents Face Risks Regardless Of Health Insurance Status

Armen Hareyan's picture

About 45 million U.S. residents lack health insurance, but the "rest ofus with health coverage are also uninsured" because those with coverageface "terrible, albeit more remote, health care risks," columnistLaurence Kotlikoff writes in a Boston Globeopinion piece. According to Kotlikoff, residents with health insuranceface the "risk that our employer will drop our plan, that Medicare willgo bust, that our plan won't cover our needs, that premiums will eat usalive, that our doctor will stop taking our insurance, that long-termcare will wipe us out and that our uninsured friends and family memberswill need major financial help." Kotlikoff illustrates the issue usinga recent speech by former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor,who noted that her grandchild has a pre-existing condition, preventingher son from obtaining insurance for him.

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However, he writes,the "risks are entirely avoidable" because the U.S. could "have anefficient, transparent system that includes everyone" at current healthcare spending levels. Kotlikoff adds, "But we can't get there via thepiecemeal reforms that President Bush, most of his would-be successorsand our state governors are advocating," such as expanded use of healthsavings accounts and tax deductions for the purchase of healthinsurance.

He recommends that the U.S. implement a MedicalSecurity System, under which the "government would give everyone avoucher each year for a basic health plan," with the amount of thevoucher "based on one's health status," and health insurers could not"refuse a voucher or otherwise deny coverage." Kotlikoff writes, "Thisis not a French, British or Canadian solution. It's an American,market-based solution that Republicans should love. It's also aprogressive solution that Democrats should love" (Kotlikoff, Boston Globe, 8/28).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.