William Brody on risk pooling

Health care reform must art with a plan to simplify

By William R. Brody, MD, PhD, president of the Johns Hopkins University
San Francisco Chronicle
September 18, 2008

I favor community-rated health insurance - that is, one big pool to spread and share risk with no cherry picking allowed.


By Don McCanne, MD

There could not be a more explicit endorsement of social insurance, especially significant since it comes from one of the nation's more important health care leaders. Once we all agree that we need one big risk pool to spread and share risk, the remaining efforts in health care reform would be limited to working out the details of the mechanics of funding and administering that pool.

That is not to say that it will be easy. We will still be debating whether or not we will dismiss the private insurance industry and replace it with a single payer universal health program. If we continue to use the private insurance industry, it will require massive transformation into a model similar to the European plans using non-profit private insurers, a change that investor-owned insurers surely will resist to the death of their corporations (what a pleasant fantasy). Instead of trying to totally change the mission and structure of U.S.-style insurers, it would be easier to replace them with our own public Medicare-like model.

Once we accept the concept of a single, equitable risk pool for everyone, then we can all move forward with the comparatively simple task of crafting the mechanics of the financing system. We really can do it.