Monday, August 31, 2009

Give Congress the Same Plan the Random Draw Has

Some politicians like to push public-option health insurance plans by describing them as giving "every citizen the same plan that every member of Congress has". This marketing scheme is fine as far as it goes, but apparently it works only so much.

So here's an alternative: let's give every member of Congress the same plan that a randomly drawn member of the public has.

Most important, let's tally up the share of Americans who go without health insurance each year, and let's randomly assign the same share of House and Senate members to uninsurance status the following year: we, their employers, will not provide them with a health plan.

For example, if 15 percent of Americans are uninsured in 2010, then round(0.15*535,1) = 80 randomly drawn House and Senate members will be denied employer-provided coverage in 2011. Most senators will be ok, since they're almost all rich and can afford individual-market plans. But some of those House members might actually suffer for it and get a taste of the not-so-good life.

Caveats: Yes, I know that the uninsured are not a random draw from the population. And yes, I know that there are real debates over how to interpret survey data concerning the share who are uninsured. But I'm going for simplicity here.

So how about it, all you congressional universal-coverage opponents: are you ready to take the same odds facing the randomly drawn U.S. citizen?

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