PUBLISHED on the Chicago Tribune web page, 2/27/06
re "Health care plan's best bet
Coverage for all has a chance in Illinois"
Chicago Tribue, 2/26/06
To the Editors:
As Illinois considers universal health care coverage, politicians and taxpayers should learn from the terrible experience of similar plans in Maine and Tennessee.
In Maine, only 8,500 people signed up for their Dirigo health plan in 2 years. About 14 percent of them dropped out in less than a year and fewer than 23% of those in the plan were uninsured when they joined. The cost per formerly-uninsured member is nearly $16,000 per year, forcing the state to impose a new tax on health insurance claims.
Tennessee’s TennCare also almost bankrupted the state in large part because members overused services. After all, they’re free…right? In 2004, Tennessee’s rate of prescription drug use was the nation’s highest, costing the state over $3 billion and recently causing the state to stop coverage of certain anxiety and seizure medicines. Although TennCare recently removed almost 200,000 people from its rolls, it remains the largest item in the state budget, costing $7.5 billion of a total 2006 budget of $25.6 billion.
Maine and Tennessee have shown that universal health care doesn’t work and costs a fortune. For the sake of Illinois, I hope its leaders and voters are wise enough to learn from the mistakes of others.
Ross Kaminsky is a fellow of the Heartland Institute