Tom Campbell, among all the Republicans in the gubernatorial field, has at least been willing to lay out detailed plans for how he would fix the state. Typically this manifests itself as the same old Hooverism. But his health care plan at least gets points for creativity.
GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tom Campbell released a unique health care proposal Thursday that would redistribute $42 billion in federal and state funds already spent on health care in California to buy private health coverage for everyone in the state who’s “involuntarily” uninsured.
Under the former congressman’s plan, the funds would cover an estimated 2 million such people in addition to the 7.6 million already receiving public health coverage under the state Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs.
“The astounding conclusion,” Campbell writes in his proposal, “is that, using only the money already being spent by the federal and state governments for health care in California, we could buy free market health insurance currently available and cover all involuntarily uninsured in California, and still have more than $700 per person left over!”
Instead of dedicating funds to services for the poor or children, Campbell would split the state into regions, and allow insurers to bid against one another to cover everyone in that region who earned below a certain level, along with everyone denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. Insurers wouldn’t bid on price, but quality of coverage – the money would be fixed, and insurers would bid against each other based on what they would cover and at what rate.
I’m wondering why any insurer would bid for this right. They deny people with pre-existing conditions because they are more likely to use health care, increasing their medical loss ratio. And the poor are more likely to need health care treatment based on lifestyle and environment. And the kicker to Campbell’s plan is, if nobody bids, the status quo would remain in place for that geographical area. So basically, Campbell is touting a big plan that would do… nothing. And he wouldn’t embark on it if the federal government enacts their own plan.
Really, that interesting, if impossible (try getting a federal waiver to set it up and face Congressmembers with interests in protecting SCHIP and Medicaid), proposal is a cover for Campbell’s apparent agenda – to permit the interstate sale of insurance and to bring up the canard of tort reform as a panacea. Medical malpractice is an insignificant percentage of total health care costs and states which have embarked on major medmal reform, like Texas, have seen no change in health inflation. As for the interstate sale of insurance, you can do it now – only you’re responsible to comply with the laws of the state in which you sell. This proposal would allow insurers to only be responsible to the regulations of the state where they are based. Tom Campbell wants to do for the health insurance industry what this kind of proposal did for the credit card industry – send all insurance companies to a small state with no regulation, and gut all state-based regulation in the process, leaving California’s insurance customers at the mercy of the laws of South Dakota or Mississippi.
To his credit, Campbell wants to remove the anti-trust exemption on the insurance industry. But really, that’s a means to an end here. However, there is a point of consensus between conservatives and liberals to do away with the McCarran-Ferguson Act, that offers that anti-trust exemption. Bills to this effect were just introduced in Congress. If Campbell wants to talk them up to the California GOP delegation, go ahead.