Health Affairs Examines Individual Health Insurance Market in Several New Studies
Health Affairs yesterday published on its Web site a series of articles examining the individual health insurance market. The articles consider the role of the individual market in providing coverage for the uninsured, the effectiveness of providing tax credits for purchasing private coverage, the government's role in subsidizing coverage for those uninsurable in the individual market and how more information could help people purchase individual coverage (Health Affairs release, 10/23). The release of the study coincided with a conference held yesterday on Capitol Hill sponsored by Health Affairs and the Center for Studying Health System Change discussing the ability of the individual insurance market to help expand coverage to the uninsured, CongressDaily reports. During the conference, health policy researchers offered "widely divergent views" on using tax credits to help the uninsured purchase individual or family coverage in the nongroup market (Rovner, CongressDaily, 10/23). The following briefly summarizes the Health Affairs articles:
- "The Nongroup Health Insurance Market: Short On Facts, Long On Opinions And Policy Disputes": The article, written by University of Pennsylvania health care economist Mark Pauly and Len Nichols, vice president of HSC, presents data reporting that the private market works "passably well" for up to 80% of those seeking coverage in it, while its performance for the remaining 20% is "controversial." They conclude that the "individual market has been shrinking over time but ... it might be stimulated if tax credits for such insurance were made available" (Pauly/Nichols, Health Affairs, 10/23).
- "Ensuring Health Security: Is The Individual Market Ready for Prime Time?": The article, written by Karen Pollitz, project director of the Institute for Health Care Research and Policy at Georgetown University, and HSC researcher Richard Sorian, notes that proposals to expand coverage to the uninsured through the use of tax credits would "rely heavily" on the individual insurance market, which may be inadequate to meet the needs of many uninsured people (Pollitz/Sorian, Health Affairs, 10/23).
- "Expanding Individual Health Insurance Coverage: Are High-Risk Pools The Answer?": The article, written by Mathematica Policy Research senior fellow Deborah Chollet, examines the use of high-risk pools by 30 states to insure people denied coverage in the individual insurance market and states that such programs have problems similar to those found in the private market, including long waits for care and expensive premiums (Chollet, Health Affairs, 10/23).
- "Reducing Uninsurance Through The Nongroup Market: Health Insurance Credits And Purchasing Groups": The article -- co-written by White House health policy adviser and newly confirmed FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan and Dartmouth College of Economics professor Katherine Baicker -- states that President Bush's plan to provide tax credits of up to $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families would expand coverage to six million currently uninsured people and improve the market even for those who do not qualify for the tax credit (McClellan/Baicker, Health Affairs, 10/23).