We describe the characteristics necessary for a plan for universal health insurance to find broad acceptance. Such a plan must represent incremental, not radical, change; must respect the preferences of voters, patients, and providers; must avoid major disruption in satisfactory existing arrangements; must avoid creating major windfall gains or losses; must avoid large-scale income redistribution; and must not be inflationary.
Our proposal would create a framework that would encourage the efficient organization of care. Successful organizations would probably be those that attracted the loyalty and commitment of physicians, integrated insurance and the provision of care, and aligned the interests of doctors and patients toward high-quality, cost-effective care. The proposal’s chief potential disadvantage would be its effect on the employment opportunities of low-wage workers, but this effect could be minimized.
In addition, we discuss a proposal to mandate coverage by employers of full-time employees, legislation enacted recently in Massachusetts, high-risk pools, and the system followed in Canada, comparing each of these alternatives with our proposal.