Commentary: More details needed on insurance industry's health plan

This editorial appeared in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

At first blush, it may seem startling that the health insurance industry is proposing to accept everyone as a customer regardless of the state of their health. But keeping one’s cynicism in check is difficult when the net result would likely be a huge increase in taxpayer funding and, of course, industry profits.

The insurance industry’s two largest trade groups — Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and America's Health Insurance Plans — recently pledged their support for national universal health coverage if there were an enforceable requirement that everyone buy insurance.

The significance of the insurance industry's position is that it played a leading role in killing President Bill Clinton's 1994 universal health coverage plan.

The industry's proposal was silent on several important issues:

How much will it cost?

Health insurance premiums have doubled in cost since 2000. The estimated 47 million uninsured Americans demographically have the worst health because they have either foregone healthcare because of cost, or they have been denied insurance because they have expensive chronic conditions. If insurance companies used community rating — meaning each customer pays the same rate regardless of health status — everyone's insurance bill would spike steeply even with utility-style rate regulation (which the industry loathes). If they continued current underwriting policies, then the uninsured would not be able to afford it anyway. Either way, the insurance companies clearly expect the taxpayers to come to the rescue.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.