Universal Coverage Could Bolster Financial Security
"We are likely to witness an improvement in the financial security for the currently uninsured" and "increases in health care spending -- quite possibly substantial ones" in states that adopt universal health care systems, Amy Finkelstein, an assistant professor of economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.
According to Finkelstein, increases in health care spending likely would occur if universal coverage was enacted, because "when individuals have insurance, they tend to consume more health care." In addition, "hospitals and doctors respond to the increased demand for health care by changing some of the ways in which they practice medicine," including purchasing more technology as more people are able to afford such services, she writes.
Finkelstein writes that for "evidence" of how universal health coverage programs "can lead to increased spending, just look at the effects of the introduction of Medicare in 1966." According to Finkelstein, "While the health benefits from Medicare ... remain uncertain," there is "clear evidence" that the program provided "substantial financial protection to the elderly."
Before Medicare, seniors were "not forgoing life-saving treatments," Finkelstein writes, adding, "Rather, they were getting these treatments, albeit at large or even enormous personal financial cost." According to Finkelstein, "Medicare did not so much save lives as it did provide financial security," adding, "This is the goal of insurance -- not to prevent an awful event from occurring, but to make sure that it if does occur, you are not devastated financially" (Finkelstein, Wall Street Journal, 2/28).