So for the final post on the theme of the uninsured and how messed up our health system is, I turn to the pages of the New York Times which shows that the taxpayer (or as Don Johnson calls us — the "market customer"!) is trying to get WalMart to not dump the cost of its employees’ benefits onto the public. Maryland just passed a bill aimed at Walmart and supported by Giant stores, a local grocery chain which does cover its workers’ health care costs, insisting on better benefits coverage from Walmart and employers like it. In California a not-dissimilar ballot initiative just failed last time and will come again this fall probably. While I’m not in favor of an employer mandate (or for that matter employers being involved in health insurance at all) it’s clear that Walmart benefits from being stingy to its employees while its competitors such as Safeway and Costco which pay better wages and give better health benefits make less money.
And as everyone joins in a race to the bottom, the number of jobs that have health insurance attached dwindles, and the number of those uninsured or falling on to the taxpayer’s plate increases. For those without insurance and not poor enough for Medicaid, the individual market beckons like a Siren attracting a ship onto the rocks. The individual market sucks, and for many examples of how, see the comments to this recent post.
Part of the reason the individual market is such a mess is the the aggressive underwriting behaviors of the plans reprensented by Karen Ignagni at AHIP. She has a letter in the NY Times today attacking Krugman’s column in which he opposed private health care. It’s an incredible piece. She manages to make more straight factual errors in three paragraphs than I would have thought possible. It’s so bad that that I actually wrote a letter pointing them out to the Times. If they don’t publish it I’ll do a longer version here next week. But her overall point is that what’s important is to debate some more…..anything than to solve the problem.