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Healthy Frontiers: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Outgoing Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed the plan of operation for the “Healthy Frontiers” pilot project, on Nov. 30. This state-funded health care program purports to transition enrollees into jobs that provide private insurance for them. About 36 percent of Wyoming’s families might participate, should our legislature enact a permanent version.

A careful reading of the programs plan raises serious concerns as to whether any but a very few individuals would be able to achieve the proposed transition to private insurance – indeed, whether private insurers, rural hospitals, an adequate supply of competent medical practitioners or a healthy state budget could survive a fully empowered Healthy Frontiers onslaught.

It is kind to consider the health care needs of vulnerable people. It is cruel to invite trusting people to depend on a program destined to deny them actual health care. “First, do no harm.” Government-run health insurance leads to wait lists, rationing and denial of care. For example, rationing in Swedish hospitals results in a 40 percent greater death rate compared to US hospitals.

Given the potential for entrapment of a large proportion of Wyoming families in a Healthy Frontiers state-funded benefits system with its “below Medicaid” rate of reimbursement (less than 70 percent), many elements of care now available would fall like dominos, including:

• rural hospitals, because they depend on 100 percent reimbursement rates for a certain percentage of their patients and this percentage would decrease.

• access to providers, because many doctors and other health professionals are unwilling to take a 30 percent cut in pay or work in a highly regulated environment where they cannot always do what they feel is best for the patient.

• private insurers, because they must have a bare minimum number of enrollees and because their market base would shrink as employers will have no reason to provide private health insurance for those on the Healthy Frontiers program.

Wyoming might attempt higher reimbursement rates, but it could not afford them any more than it can presently afford the soaring costs of Medicaid.

Entitlement programs never are able to fulfill their promises to enrollees over the long haul. They are almost impossible to discontinue once they are enacted. The inadequacy of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements would magnify the destructive effects of a Healthy Frontiers programs and hasten rationing as state finances are overwhelmed with health care expenses. It appears that regulators on a Healthy Frontiers benefits board would make benefit and rationing decisions.

Sven Larson’s economic analysis of the Healthy Frontiers pilot project Act, including a more detailed look at the issues referred to in this article can be found here or request a copy from our office by calling (307) 632-7020.

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Wednesday, 23 August 2017
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