Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Felix Salmon linked to me.

I am honored, because he is very smart and because he linked to one of my posts on health care, which doesn't have much to do with your portfolio.

OK so more thoughts on health insurance mandates. It is noted that auto insurance is mandated and yet 15% of drivers are uninsured. This is a false analogy. It is much easier to enforce a universal mandate. Not everyone drives a car. There are people with licenses who don't drive, because they don't own a car. Now in the USA almost everyone between the age of 16 and 100 drives, but almost everyone is not everyone.
People who drive without liability insurance can claim that they don't drive unless they are caught behind the wheel (by the way traffic police could, you know check).

Also the US public sector can learn from La Repubblica Italiana (this is not a joke). In Italy, there is this little square of paper that is part of the insurance document and which has a date on it. This must be placed in a little pocket on the windshield


sector, there are many many mandates which are not enforced over here. If one watches TV, one has to pay a fixed license fee in exchange for public TV. It was decided that it would be unfair to finance public TV from taxes, since then even people who don't watch it would have to pay (this was back when there was no private TV in Italy). Some people actually do pay the fee (I met them in line at the post office while trying to figure out how to pay it).

I once heard of Big Brother and the BBC of how in the UK there are (or were) police officers with television set detectors (an echo type radio wave is generated when the TV signal is amplified) catching people who haven't paid for their BBC. George Orwell (who was so happy when he worked for the BBC) would be so proud.

This is silly. Almost everyone in Europe watches TV. In the ECHP household survey they don't even ask people if they own a TV, they ask if they own a color TV (for my younger readers there are also "black and white" TV's which have an image which is on a scale of greys not RGB and you can see what it looks like using say Adobe or looking at old movies except on the Turner old movie channel). 99% of respondents say yes. The survey covers all EU countries including Greece and Portugal.

However, the totally ineffective mandate is there to handle the remote possibility that a tax payer might be one of the few people who doesn't watch TV (I think I can name 2 both in the USA and both raising kids who are waay ahead of their classmates in everything for some strange reason).

Everyone has health, good or bad. A universal mandate is much easier to enforce than one which applies only to 99% of households plus those who watch black and white TV.





other stuff I edited out for space

Like just about everyone except for insurance company lobbyists, I would much prefer a single payer plan to a mandate that people buy insurance. Even if the new universal plan is used to supplement, not replace, private insurance, I think it should be funded with an increase in taxes plus an "I have my own health insurance" deduction (and yes that means high income people who have their own health insurance pay more).

But the powers that be (really the pollsters that be) have decided that the only thing that is politically possible is, either to offer insurance at a rate that does not depend on current health and that covers pre-existing conditions or to offer that and require people to buy it. The first (the Obama plan) is very vulnerable to free riders. Obama's real plan must be to introduce un-mandated no reason to buy it while you are healthy insurance, then wait till people are mad at the free riders.

Felix Salmon also commented on this post

Wait. 15% of *drivers* don't have insurance, or 15% of *people with driver's licenses* don't have insurance? It's a huge difference. I, for one, have a driver's license, but living as I do in Manhattan I don't have a car. I'm sure there are also many elderly people who don't drive any more but who still have their licenses. And I'm sure there are literally millions of couples who share a car between them -- I don't know how that would show up in the stats. So it might be worth running down this 15% number and finding out where it came from. Maybe Carl Bialik can help?

BTW, thanks for the kind words. I can assure your readers that you're much smarter than I am.
# posted by Blogger Felix : 5:12 PM


Thanks for the very kind words. I have no idea where the 15% number comes from.

update: I recently noticed (ok someone else noticed for me) that my insurance expired a week ago, so I am driving without insurance (counting on a 2 week grace period). Today I learned I can't pay for next calender years insurance with a credit card.

1 comment:

Felix said...

Wait. 15% of *drivers* don't have insurance, or 15% of *people with driver's licenses* don't have insurance? It's a huge difference. I, for one, have a driver's license, but living as I do in Manhattan I don't have a car. I'm sure there are also many elderly people who don't drive any more but who still have their licenses. And I'm sure there are literally millions of couples who share a car between them -- I don't know how that would show up in the stats. So it might be worth running down this 15% number and finding out where it came from. Maybe Carl Bialik can help?

BTW, thanks for the kind words. I can assure your readers that you're much smarter than I am.