portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

health

Colorado considers statewide medical insurance pool

Voluntary non-profit statewide health insurance program for the uninsured.
Oregonians for Health Security newsletter
Feb. 23, 2004
 http://www.oregoniansforhealthsecurity.org

Colorado Considers Insurance Pool

The Colorado Legislature is considering a new plan to reduce health care costs and expand coverage to many of that state's uninsured residents. The plan would create a voluntary non-profit statewide health insurance program.

Any willing individual, family or business could join the insurance pool. Sponsors say the risk spread out over such a large pool would help bring costs down and provide comprehensive coverage for thousands who cannot afford it right now. Bill sponsor, Representative Lois Tochtrop, D-Lakewood told the Rocky Mountain News, "Affordability of insurance used to impact the working poor. Now, it's moved up to the middle class." (2/16/04)

Tochtrop's plan would provide comprehensive coverage with co-pays for prescriptions and office visits. Also, in years of a budget surplus a tax credit for half the cost of the plan, up to $500, would be available.

Oregon should consider innovative plans, like this, that reduce costs and improve access to quality health care.
Oregon already HAS a health insurance pool and it sucks! 23.Feb.2004 18:21

justella

The Oregon Legislature established Oregon Medical Insurance Pool (OMIP)in 1987 for "...Oregonians who are unable to obtain health benefit coverage ... because their current or past medical conditions." The big problem is that OMIP is unaffordable. As a single unemployed person, this program charges me over $400 month in premium and does not cover vision, dental, etc. The copays are also rather high. Membership in OMIP also renders the insuree ineligible for any subsidized health insurance. Like many, I cannot afford this "coverage," and would be better off going without insurance, paying for doc's visits, obtaining my meds overseas (or at Costco) and declaring bankruptcy if I require surgery or sustain a life threatening illness. Nice try....

OMIP is too small of a pool 23.Feb.2004 20:37

Lynn Porter

OMIP is Oregon's high risk insurance pool. It's for people with no insurance through work and with preexisting conditions, so insurance companies will not sell insurance to them. The state forces insurance companies to sell individual policies to those in the pool, but with a premium added on top. So it costs even more than the usual individual medical insurance policy, which is way too much for most of us. So yeah, you end up paying over $400 a month. And it's not right.

But OMIP is a small risk pool and it wasn't designed to give anyone insurance at an affordable rate. What you need is a BIG pool, like maybe everyone in the state who is uninsured, underinsured or self-employed plus state government employees, managed to bring the premiums down to something we can afford. I would also make the premiums progressive, so that they vary with income.

In other words, a state government run insurance program for everyone who isn't already adequately insured through their jobs. Since this would take some of the burden off smaller employers, we might also consider a tax on employers to help make this work.

It's worth pointing out... 24.Feb.2004 11:59

James

That according to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services study, Oregon spends a total of around $11,000,000,000 on health care. (Actually, that estimate was from 1998. So assuming similar average annual growth which was listed as 5.2% for the 90s, it's probably more like $11,000,000,000 * 1.052 ^ 5 = $14,173,000,000. Let's say $14,000,000,000 is close enough).

Furthermore, something like 500,000 Oregonians lack health insurance, so total health spending is almost assuredly lower than it otherwise would have been if everyone had access. It's impossible to adjust though, because some uninsured spend their own money on health care, or take advantage of special government (non-insurance) programs. So let's ignore that fact.

My point is this: If you assume a non-general fund financed, equitable system, funded only my premiums -- even a non-profit, state-run pool -- there's probably no way you can get premiums below $300-$400/month.

$14,000,000,000 total spending / 3,500,000 OR pop = $4,000 per capita
$4,000 per capita / 12 months = $333/month per capita

Obviously you can subsidize, progressively tax, etc. But don't fool yourself into thinking you can get something for nothing. You can't.

This is an election year and the charlatans have come out from the woodwork. (No offense intended to IMC readers. I know you've been here all along. I'm only referencing Democratic presidential and congressional candidates). Wild promises will be made, but -- more likely than not -- they will not add up.