More on health care

Hardly earth-shattering, but I thought it would be interesting to look at coverage rates for private and government-sponsored health care over the same time period as the Milliman report quoted by Reinhardt. It’s not obvious right away because of the spread of the numbers, but there are a couple of ideas that I was sorry to see confirmed. First, the rapid growth in health costs has been accompanied by a significant decrease in private coverage over the 2001 to 2009 time period, from 72.6% to 63.9% of the population (all coverage data from the U.S. Census Bureau), indicating that fewer and fewer customers are necessary for the industry to produce massive profit growth. That strikes me as an ominous parallel to what is happening with productivity & employment.

Second, the increase in government coverage over the period was driven entirely by Medicaid, or coverage for the very poor,  which went from covering 10.6% to 15.7% of the population by the end of 2009. That has to be some combination of the long-term unemployed as well as those whose employers (e.g. Wal-Mart) have effectively outsourced insurance costs to the public. It is shocking to think that 1 in 6 were so poor at the end of 2009 that they were on Medicaid – that number must certainly be higher now.

Sources: NY Times, US Census Bureau

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