A better solution. Wharton school health economist Mark Pauly and his colleagues have studied the individual market in great detail and discovered that despite so much negative rhetoric in the public policy arena this is a market that worked and worked reasonably well. Despite President Obama’s repeated reference to insurance plans that cancel your coverage after you get sick, this practice has been illegal for almost 20 years and in most states it was illegal long before that. And despite repeated references to people denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, estimates are that only 1 percent of the population has this problem persistently. (Remember: only 107,000 people enrolled in the federal government’s pre-existing condition risk pool — out of a population of more than 300 million people!) At most, Pauly puts the pre-existing condition problem at 4% of the population.
So we started with a market that was working and working well for 96 to 99 percent of those who entered it and we have completely destroyed that market — ostensibly to help the few people for whom it did not work. We suspect that after the next election members of both parties will want a major return to normalcy. How can that work?
There is a principle that must never be violated. An insurance pool should never be allowed to dump its high cost patients on another pool. Suppose an individual has been paying premiums to insurer A for many years; then he gets sick and transfers to insurer B. Is it fair to let A put all those premium checks in the bank and force B to pay all the medical bills? Of course not. But even more important, if we do that we will create all of the perverse incentives discussed above — plus many more we might have added had time permitted.