Do We Need Obamacare To Cover The Uninsured?

Who's uninsurable?


Amidst the emotions and furor in these town hall meetings on healthcare, might there actually be some worthwhile, substantive discussions about how to reform the system? I haven't found any, but I can extrapolate from this moment in Obama's town-hall meeting in New Hampshire. The Journal reports:

...Mr. Obama tried to emphasize one issue, a prohibition in the legislation on insurance companies denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. He was introduced by Lori Hitchcock, a 52-year-old single mother who has been unable to purchase health insurance since she was diagnosed in 2003 with the Hepatitis C virus, which can give rise to the same disease that took the life of her husband.

"I am the face of the uninsured. I am uninsurable. I have a pre-existing condition," an emotional Ms. Hitchcock said.

Is she really uninsurable? Is regulation the only way to make insurance available for people with certain pre-existing conditions?

A few weeks ago, Bryan Caplan of GMU responded to a similar question I asked. He argued that regulation itself is one of the major factors that make health insurance hard to get:

...the fact that health insurance is too expensive for the poor is actually an important argument for deregulation of the health industry in order to bring costs down. For starters, there are many regulations on the books that specify what health insurance companies have to cover—mental health being the most notorious. In a free market, insurance companies could offer more restrictive policies that the poor might actually be able to afford.

Would the "free market" really provide healthcare or insurance for everyone? I doubt it. But it's hard to conclude who is insurable and who isn't when there are so many government-imposed rules that distort the system. The full extent of people who could buy health insurance might be much greater in a world where insurance companies can better narrowly tailor policies to the demands of consumers.