Did you know that an estimated one of every three uninsured people in this country is eligible for a government program (mainly Medicaid or a state children’s health insurance plan), but has not signed up?
Either they haven’t bothered to sign up or they did bother and found the task too daunting. It’s probably some combination of the two, and if that doesn’t knock your socks off, you must not have been paying attention to the health policy debate over the past year or so.
Put aside everything you’ve heard about Obama Care and focus on this bottom line point: going all the way back to the Democratic presidential primary, Obama Care was always first and foremost about insuring the uninsured. Yet at the end of the day, the new health law is only going to insure about 32 million more people out of more than 50 million uninsured. Half that goal will be achieved by new enrollment in Medicaid. But if you believe the Census Bureau surveys, we could enroll just as many people in Medicaid by merely signing up those who are already eligible!
What brought this to mind was a series of editorials by Paul Krugman and Health Affairs blog and at my blog) asserting that government is so much more efficient than private insurers. Can you imagine Aetna or UnitedHealth Care leaving one-third of its customers without a sale, just because they couldn’t fill out the paperwork properly? Well that’s what Medicaid does, day in and day out.
Put differently, half of everything Obama Care is trying to do is necessary only because the Medicaid bureaucracy does such a poor job — not of selling insurance, but of giving it away for free!
Writing in Health Affairs the other day, health policy guru Alain Enthoven and health care executive Leonard Schaeffer revealed some of the gory details of what people encounter when they do try to sign up for free health insurance from Medi-Cal (California Medicaid) in the San Diego office: