The Health Karen Debate

With fewer employers offering health insurance, a market exists for those who need to buy insurance the old-fashioned way – shopping for an individual plan.

The Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit foundation, reported today that nearly 90 percent of people in that market are going uninsured either because of cost or because of a prior condition that makes them virtually uninsurable at any price.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a most assuredly for-profit group, countered with a report of its own, with president Karen Ignani saying quite the opposite is true. Presuming the data are not cooked, their information comes from actual insurance company records, whereas Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis is relying on polling of what people say they did.

The issue is much larger than methodology, of course. It is whether a free market can accommodate the nation’s health needs as well it can the nation’s toothpaste, shampoo or cell phone needs. It can – but not until:

— the risk pool is broadened
— illness is distributed along a bell curve of income
— the germs of free-market “losers” are rendered noncontagious to the “winners.”

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