A Seductive Idea Returns to Public Debate

Frank Diamond, our managing editor, in this month’s cover story on the resurgence of talk about a standard health insurance benefit, notes the cyclical nature of some political and social issues. A standard benefit may be one of those issues; it certainly was a centerpiece of the coverage design that the Clinton administration produced over a decade ago, and it returns now because it is attractive to many people for social, political, and business reasons.

Unattractive to others, also for social, political, and business reasons. At first I thought that it would be mainly centrists and leftists who would embrace it, but then I remembered our interview with Newt Gingrich last year, and how he wanted to require every American to obtain health insurance. If you’re going that route, you certainly need a minimum standard, because if you don’t have one, you might as well not have the mandate. Imagine, if you will, businesses that have no health benefit now being required to provide insurance with no defined standard.

Of course, to have a minimum benefit doesn’t necessarily mean mandatory insurance; one could craft a plan combining our knowledge of medical care delivery and private business concerns to have a floor policy that would be intelligible to workers buying on the open market and would provide a useful level of catastrophic coverage and some preventive care — both valuable to beneficiaries, employers, and society.

As you browse through this issue, you can hardly fail to notice that three of our five feature stories this month involve data processing — oops! I mean information technology. It seems that electronic medical records, predictive modeling, distance medicine, advising patients by e-mail, not to mention the all-significant, if mundane, world in which claims are processed, are very much on everyone’s mind.

MANAGED CARE August 2006. ©MediMedia USA

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