Alternative Fix to Problem of Uninsured

September 18, 2009

Let’s say that people without health insurance is a major problem that needs fixing, as many believe it is.  One  estimate is that 46 million people, or 15% of the population, is not covered by health insurance.

Assuming Keith Hennessey has done his homework and this information is correct, he  says that of the 46 million,  10.1 million, or 3% of the population, may actually warrant some aid to obtain medical care.  Important to not, many of them receive health care now through other subsidized means.

If the goal is to cover this 3% of the population, why not use a program like food stamps that targets a low income demographic to give them the ability to put food on the table?  Why not provide medical stamps that can only be redeemed on medical care and health insurance?

People eligible to receive the stamps might use them in the same fashion as people on HSAs with high deductible health insurance.  They could buy high deductible health insurance with about 20% of the medical stamps and stockpile the other 80% in HSA (Health Savings Accounts)-like accounts to be used on day-to-day medical care until they reach the deductible amount.

Also, like an HSA, if they grow out of the eligibility for the stamp program because of rising income or other access to health insurance presents itself, they can keep the value they’ve accumulated in the HSA for future medical expenses.

I prefer this idea over other solutions because it allows people to control their own health care expenditures, replacing the bureaucracy of medical claims processing with a bureaucracy of distributing medical stamps.  A more efficient means of distribution may be through the tax code through an EIC-like credit.

It also may be self-funding, though I haven’t done no math on this.  In theory people managing their own medical care expenses will spend more carefully than receiving care funded by invisible donors.  For example, rather than spending $1,000 of medical stamps for emergency room visits for routine medical care, they might choose to conserve their dollars with a $60 visit to the CVS Pharmacy Minute Clinic.

What’s wrong with this idea?


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