Tuesday, November 9, 2010

qotd: Children worse off under Utah's privatized CHIP program

The Salt Lake Tribune
November 8, 2010
Central Utah children on CHIP face doctor shortage
By Kirsten Stewar

Privatizing Utah's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is supposed to save money and improve services.

But with no proof yet of any savings reaped, the experiment has been tripped up by service breakdowns.

The latest: Complaints from some of the 379 CHIP families in Carbon and Emery counties who say their children no longer have access to pediatric care. That's because Intermountain Healthcare's SelectHealth, which inherited some CHIP patients on July 1, has no primary care doctors in that region.

"Now, after 10 years with our local family doctor, we need to find a new one," said Jason Chambers of Wellington.

Chambers said his doctor applied to become a SelectHealth provider months ago and gave up after receiving no response.

Chambers phoned the toll-free number on his CHIP card and was told his only option was to drive over the mountain to an in-network doctor in Spanish Fork. "That's 65 miles away — four hours round trip," to keep an appointment, said Chambers.

Legislation to privatize the CHIP program was backed by the insurance industry and sponsored in 2008 by Taylorsville Republican and insurance broker Rep. Jim Dunnigan... He said he sponsored his bill not as a favor to the insurance industry but to save taxpayer dollars and improve care through market forces.

Comment:  The drive to divert the administration of publicly-financed health insurance programs to the private sector can be described at best as irrational fanaticism. The claim that private administration of public insurance programs uses market forces to improve quality and reduce costs has been disproven repeatedly. Costs of private administration are always higher, so any reductions in net spending are the result of curtailment of services.

Utah's Children's Health Insurance Program is one of the latest victims of this fanaticism. Requiring a four hour round trip to a primary care physician might save money by decreasing utilization, but it certainly fails on the quality measure of access.

If Utah had a publicly-administered universal health program, this wouldn't even be an issue. Mr. Chambers' children could continue to go to their own family physician.

Imagine with such a system in place - say a single payer national health program - if someone said that we are turning the program over to a private entity that requires you to travel to a distant community for your routine care, what would be your response? After the expletives, then what would you say?

The irrational fanatics are swarming. How long are we going to tolerate being stung?

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