The Shell Game

Monday, June 28, 2010
The recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forces the State of Ohio to re-address our uninsured. Of particular interest is our population of high risk uninsured. These individuals are very unhealthy and have not been insured for over six months. The previous options available to our high-risk pool were both mediocre and expensive. Still, many of our unhealthiest accepted the available state mandated option. Today we are talking about those who did not.

According to the report published in the Plain Dealer this past Saturday, the federal government has allocated $152,000,000 to help cover these Ohioans until the new rules kick in, about four years from now. Medical Mutual of Ohio, a local not-for-profit, won the contract to manage the policies.

This is not free insurance. The individuals will be required to pay some yet to be determined premium. What does one hundred fifty-two million get you? The State’s best guess is 5,000 insureds. Based on my knowledge of the current premiums and benefits available to these individuals, that number might be a touch optimistic.

In a post dated June 29, 2009, The Real World, I noted that Governor Strickland’s budget included a premium reduction for the open enrollment policies available to Ohio’s unhealthiest citizens under age 65. The cost for this would be borne by Ohioans who pay for their own health coverage. We would, according to the State’s actuary, pay 5.5% more to help our neighbors acquire insurance. My clients can attest to their rising premiums.

The one hundred fifty-two million dollars is part of a total five billion dollar four year program. Let’s pretend that 5,000 is a real number. For our purposes, let’s pretend that all of these numbers are real, the federal government really has five billion dollars, and we really get our hundred fifty million. 5,000 beneficiaries would get only $30,400 towards their coverage. This is only $7,600 per year, a little over $600 per month. Is that even close to the actual cost of insuring these individuals?

The current Medical Mutual of Ohio premium for the Ohio Standard policy for a 60 year old male in Cuyahoga County is $1,403.08 per month after the recent rate reduction. We already know that that is not sufficient to pay claims. Will our soon to be insured make up the $800 per month difference? And, will the new federally designed policy be as awful as our current contract or will it be more generous and costly?

This, of course, does not even begin to address the fact that there are far more than 5,000 Ohioans who are both very unhealthy and in need of a different way to pay for their health care.

There was a time, not so long ago, that we were told that one of the main reasons we had to go to war was because of the way the Taliban treated the women of Afghanistan. We have been told that the purpose of health care reform was to cover the uninsured. The selectivity of our focus and actions make both arguments seem specious. Our government is perfectly happy to ignore the abuses of cooperative tyrants who provide us with cheap oil. And we have yet to show any real interest in devising, and FUNDING, a program to truly cover our unhealthiest and uninsured.

What we have is a shell game. More and more costs are being shifted to those of us with private insurance. All the while the federal government attempts to block insurers from raising rates to cover the true costs. Books must balance, at least in business.

My predictions of a few months ago still stand.

DAVE

www.bogartcunix.com