Ezra Klein has an article up the thorny problem of how to get health coverage or continue it to those who have been displaced. Ezra suggests extending COBRA to all of them. The major problem there of course is that proving who worked where is going to be a nightmare, and with no income many people won’t be able to afford COBRA (or any other kind of insurance, just before you jump in Ron!), and those employers that won’t survive Katrina or which are already effectively finished, will not be able to make their monthly premium payments — which will at some point mean the end of those employers’ plans for ex-employees to buy into using COBRA. This solution may though work for those who have stable employers and have coverage that the employers are continuing to pay for while they’re effectively laid-off or have the money to buy an extension of that employer’s coverage (even if the employer itself is no more) if the insurers can be persuaded to allow that (which I’m sure under the circumstances they can).
For everyone else (which is probably the vast majority) Ezra basically suggests what seems to be the current prevailing thought. Let those people go on Medicaid in whichever states they end up and let the states make sure that the Feds pick up the tab as part of the overall disaster relief effort as promised.
Of course this is one more reason why a simple national universal insurance system would be a better way of handling things. If everyone was covered then providers could give services in the certainty that they’d get paid. Don’t forget that this will be the situation for those who are over 65, as Medicare is a national system (albeit administered regionally).
And at the least Katrina has uncovered the ugly secret of what it’s like to go without in America today….and going without health care coverage is a big part of going without.