HealthSource Tanking… No Surprise, but Beware

The tone of Richard Salit’s Providence Journal article about HealthSource RI’s unsustainable business model is actually less pro-government-spending than one might have expected.  Funding Rhode Island’s ObamaCare health benefits exchange while providing adequate customer service is presented as a challenge to be solved, perhaps with some mix of increased revenue and innovations in efficiency:

As it weans itself off of millions of dollars in federal start-up money, HealthSource has downsized significantly, and it is struggling to meet customer service demands as it approaches the start of its third-annual open enrollment period on Sunday.

Anya Rader Wallack, director of Health-Source until she leaves on Monday for a new job, acknowledges the difficulties.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t hear some complaints,” said Wallack, who called the restructuring “very much a work in progress.”    “It’s not always pretty,” said Wallack. “We know that, as we have scaled back significantly at the call center to live within this budget, we’ve seen the impact on our customers … We are trying to do everything we can to address that situation. We hope to be much further through the re-engineering before open enrollment hits.”

But even without the Darth Vader music lingering around the mentions of budget cuts, the whole story isn’t being told.  Namely, that this is no surprise whatsoever.  A 2009 study conducted under now-Secretary of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Roberts found that Rhode Island simply doesn’t have the scale to justify this sort of a government program.

Unless people are (1) forced to buy insurance and (2) forced to do so through the government exchange, it just doesn’t make sense for the state to operate a Web site like this, and making a business model work in a way that restricts freedoms should not in any terms be within the government’s scope.

That’s why Rhode Islanders should find it offensive, presumptuous, and dangerous that a recent PowerPoint presentation promoting the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) talks about “capturing” markets.  That phrase appears as a marker of success for HealthSource, which is the precursor for the RIBridges project, which will link all government services in an easy-get-hand-outs network, but it’s not success; it’s an affront.

Capturing markets is an appropriate activity for private organizations, because what they mean is that they’re offering products that people increasingly want and voluntarily procure.  Government can manipulate the law and the economy in order to drive people to its products.  That’s not competition; it’s totalitarianism and an assault on freedom.

  • Northern Exposure

    Since the first interview on 10 News Conference, Ms. Roberts identified the state retirees (add municipal retirees eligible for health care) as a group they desired to “capture.” Look for some kind of legislation to force that to happen!