Cutting Routine Care to Save on Health Care Costs?

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By Jheanelle Chambers, Intern

Temple University professor and National Federation of Independent Business economist Bill Dunkelberg writes in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer column that health care coverage should be more like auto insurance, covering catastrophic illnesses only — and not routine preventive care:

For me, what we call "health-care insurance" should be more like car or home insurance. Health plans should cover catastrophic illness, but not preventive care.

When you change the oil in your car, does your car insurance cover that? New tires? A battery? That's maintenance.

But if you have a serious accident, that is "catastrophic," involving potentially large and uncertain costs, and insurance covers that.

The problem with this approach is people are not cars. Regular medical check-ups maintain good health, and if a person waits until a minor illness turns serious, the cost of treatment is much greater. There is also strong evidence that preventative care increases both the quality and the length of people's lives.

Morning Must Reads: Prediction: State Budget Cuts = Rising Property Taxes = Property Taxes Revolts

A toxic cocktail of state budget choices by the Corbett administration — which include holding in reserve more than half a billion in unexpected tax revenue, corporate tax cuts and a needlessly delayed and ultimately inadequate drilling fee — have slowed job growth and driven up property taxes. It is too early to know whether layoffs in 2012 will match the thousands experienced in 2011, but the news continues to trickle in that school districts are looking to raise property taxes and cut more staff in the year ahead.   

Spending Twice as Much on Prisons as on Universities

It is no secret that Governor Tom Corbett has proposed deep cuts to higher education institutions in Pennsylvania for the second year in a row.

But just what do those cuts mean? Well, we have two charts at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's web site that speak louder than words when it comes to funding cuts for colleges and universities.

This Week at Third and State: School Bus Contracting, Voter ID and the Misguided Food Stamps Asset Test

This week, we blogged about a new report on the higher costs of contracting out school bus transportation to private companies, the expensive voter ID bill approved this week, an op-ed from the CEO of Weis Markets on the misguided asset test being proposed for food assistance, and much more.


  • On privatization, Stephen Herzenberg blogged about a new Keystone Research Center report finding that private school bus transportation services in Pennsylvania cost more than when districts provide their own transportation, underscoring that privatization is not always the best option.
  • On voter ID, Chris Lilienthal wrote about this costly plan earlier in the week and later included a link to a news story after its final passage on Wednesday.
  • On food assistance, Chris Lilienthal highlighted an op-ed by Weis Markets CEO David J. Hepfinger explaining what a bad idea it is to impose an assets test on people who are seeking food assistance.
  • On health care, Sharon Ward shared the podcast of her appearance on WITF's Radio Smart Talk, in which she discussed the future of health and human services in Pennsylvania.
  • And in the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price highlighted a news report on a new study that predicts fiscal distress in Pennsylvania school districts thanks to state budget cuts, articles comparing the gas booms in North Dakota and Pennsylvania, and a piece examining whether the settlement between states and mortgage lenders over questionable document processing is accelerating foreclosure activity.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

More Harm than Good

David J. Hepfinger, the CEO of Sunbury-based Weis Markets, has a great op-ed in today's Harrisburg Patriot-News explaining what a bad idea it is to impose an assets test on people who are seeking food assistance:

We can clearly see how the poor economy impacts our customers at Weis Markets. Today, they are making fewer shopping trips, buying in smaller sizes, switching from beef to poultry and, sadly, purchasing fewer diapers and more ointment despite an unchanged birth rate.

Morning Must Reads: Got Gas?, Foreclosures Up, and Layoffs in the Business of News

In petrochemical news this morning, Royal Dutch Shell choose Monaca Pennsylvania for a new cracker plant, there is still no buyer for Sunoco's Philadelphia and Marcus Hook refineries, and more from Paul Krugman on the job hype surrounding natural resource booms.

Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story: Private School Bus Services in Pennsylvania Cost More

The standard conservative narrative is that private delivery of services and goods trumps government delivery. In Harrisburg, for example, Governor Corbett’s Council on Privatization and Innovation often presents its goal as privatization, taking for granted that this will be more efficient and cost-effective.

In fact, the record on privatization shows that in many cases privatization fails to deliver promised savings and can undercut service quality. That’s part of why Cornell Professor Mildred Warner has found that local governments often bring work back in house.

Morning Must Reads: Gas Booms in North Dakota and Pennsylvania and Art Is Good

Responding to the bizarre claims that if everybody moved to North Dakota we wouldn't have high unemployment, Paul Krugman on Wednesday compared North Dakota's energy boom to Pennsylvania's.

The Future of Health and Human Services in PA

This morning I was on WITF's Radio Smart Talk to discuss the state of health and human services in Pennsylvania.

I explained that it was important for the commonwealth to spend taxpayer money wisely, but that current policies were resulting in eligible Pennsylvanians, including thousands of children, losing their health care.

Rather than taking away health care from children or jeopardizing the nursing care of seniors, I said state policymakers should look at alternatives, including closing tax loopholes and ending corporate welfare.

You can listen to the show at WITF's web site or by clicking on the player below. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Costly Voter ID Bill Now Before PA House

Update: The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved the voter ID bill on March 14 and it was promptly signed into law by Governor Corbett. As the Associated Press reported: "In the signing ceremony at his Capitol offices, Corbett called the new law a preventive measure, but he could not offer examples of voter fraud to back up his contention that the crime has occurred in certain precincts in the past." Read more from the AP.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives may vote as soon as today on legislation that would enact a costly voter identification law in the state.

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