Forum for Health Economics & Policy | Health Care, Health Insurance, and the Distribution of American Incomes

February 21, 2010

Gary Burtless and Pavel Svaton (2010) “Health Care, Health Insurance, and the Distribution of American Incomes,” Forum for Health Economics & Policy: Vol. 13: Iss. 1 (Frontiers in Health Policy Research), Article 1. [Full Text (pdf)]

Abstract: Cash income offers an incomplete picture of the resources available to finance household consumption. Most American families are covered by an insurance plan that pays for some or all of the health care they consume. Only a comparatively small percentage of families pays for the full cost of this insurance out of their cash incomes. As health care has claimed a growing share of consumption, the percentage of care that is financed out of household incomes has declined. Because health care consumption is more important for some groups in the population than others, the growth in spending and changes in the payment system for medical care have reduced the value of standard income measures for assessing relative incomes of the rich and poor and the young and old. More than a seventh of total personal consumption now consists of health care that is purchased with government insurance and employer contributions to employee health plans. This paper combines health care spending and insurance reimbursement data in the Medical Expenditure Panel Study and money income and health coverage data in the Current Population Survey to assess the impact of health insurance on the distribution of income. Our estimates imply that gross money income significantly understates the resources available to finance household purchases. The estimates imply that a more complete measure of resources would show less inequality than the income measures that are currently used. The addition of estimates of the value of health insurance to countable incomes reduces measured inequality in the population and the income gap between young and old. If the analysis were extended over a longer period, it would show a sizeable impact of insurance on inequality trends in the United States.

Nice Guys Finish Last | The New Republic-Scheiber

February 11, 2010

Nice Guys Finish Last: What Obama could learn from Bush about bipartisanship. Noam Scheiber. The New Republic. February 11, 2010.

The upshot is that liberal use of reconciliation and other ostensible crimes against Senate protocol may be the Democrats’ best hope going forward. Moderates will complain that they risk a voter backlash by looking thuggish and partisan. But, as Bush showed, these tactics aren’t just a way to enact an agenda that the opposition is bent on blocking. They’re the most effective way to achieve bipartisanship in the process. More…

Obama to DNC: ‘I am not going to walk away from health insurance reform’ – Silla Brush,

February 6, 2010

“”The easiest thing to do would be to say this is too hard. Let’s just regroup and lick our wounds — try to hang on,” Obama said at the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee. “We have had a long and difficult debate on healthcare. And there are some, maybe even the majority in this town, who say to walk away. “Just in case there is any confusion out there. I am not going to walk away from health insurance reform,” Obama said. More…

WellPoint CEO: Wasted Opportunity for Real Reform – Joseph Rago, WSJ

February 6, 2010

” But as Mrs. Braly notes ruefully, “The nature of health care is very complex, and sometimes the nature of politics is very simple.”  The tragedy, as she sees it, is what “a wasted opportunity” it all turned out to be. “Health-care reform” soon became “health-insurance reform” exclusively. “It was a pivot that was—unfortunate,” she says, “because it is not going to solve the longer-term problem.” More…

Dems Ask, Can Our Health Bill Be Saved? – Pear & Herszenhorn, NY Times

February 6, 2010

“Even if Democrats could reach agreement among themselves, Republicans have vowed to use every parliamentary weapon to block the legislation. By using budget reconciliation procedures, Senate Democrats could limit debate, but not necessarily the number of amendments, and Republicans are prepared to offer dozens.”  More…

RealClearPolitics | Congress Should Change Direction on Health Bill – Gary Andres, RCP

February 6, 2010

Can the White House and congressional Democrats accomplish a midcourse correction that finds some Republican support, keeps the deal making to a minimum, and results in the president discovering the value of “going private”? Not likely. But if the Democrats insist on forcing the current comprehensive measure through the process in 2010 without any of the adjustments discussed, they better learn to say Speaker Boehner in 2011. More…