POLICY: A long and excellent series on health insurance, and a good review of the Kerry plan, with UPDATE

There is an excellent series on the current crisis in health insurance in the San Diego Union-Tribune written by Leslie Berestein. The really avid TCHB wonk reader may know all this, but it’s not often the three rings of the circus are put together in the popular press. The first article Insurance ills put squeeze on consumers explains the background to the current cost explosion. The second, employers benefits in critical shape, looks at the problem small and medium business are having providing insurance, while all employers are cutting back on health care and increasing employee contributions. Finally the third article, the individual insurance market sucks (Ok it’s not called that but it should be) has some harrowing stories about the collapse of the individual market for the 20% of those in it who really need it.

Go read the articles, and kudos to Leslie and her editors for running this series. I have two quick observations. One, this type of article started appearing in the early 1990s. We didn’t fix the problem then and now it’s back much worse. Second, there is no solution without compulsory insurance and compulsory risk pooling. Anything else is an illusion.

Finally, Jeff Lemiuex at Centrists.org has an interesting, long and thorough review of what in the Kerry plan (and also in the Frist plan) both conservatives and liberals can live with. I don’t share his optimism about the likelihood of a non-universal insurance system being able to contain long-term costs, but it’s a very thoughtful analysis of a possible legislative response to the developing crisis reported in the Union-Tribune.

UPDATE: The NY Times has a very similar article on the problems of small businesses buying health insurance.

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