In its Saturday issue, The Washington Post
ran an article
by Ceci Connolly on the Kerry health plan. In the "we've heard this before" category, the plan seeks to obtain health-care savings (and therefore reduced premiums, and therefore more coverage for the working uninsured) through electronic medical records and disease-management requirements. The plan would also position the federal government as payor of last resort for catastrophic claims, in much the same role as it plays as ultimate reinsurer after natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The federal government would pay employers 75% of the cost of "catastrophic claims," defined as a single employee's claims over $50,000 in any one year. As Connelly notes: "Such catastrophic claims account for less than half of 1 percent of all claims but generate 20 percent of the nation's health care costs, according to the latest federal data." The relief felt by employers, insurers, and employees (hopefully) would come at a cost: "In exchange for the benefit, Kerry would require employers to offer insurance to every worker and to provide health programs that detect and manage chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure early enough to prevent the diseases from worsening." And the federal tab? "Emory University health economist Kenneth E. Thorpe estimates the reinsurance program would save businesses and employees $288 billion in premiums over a decade but cost the government $257 billion because of administrative reductions." Most of that price would be covered by rolling back tax breaks delivered to the wealthy after the 2002 mid-term elections.