Will the insured sacrifice to help cover the uninsured? New study suggests yes

ANN ARBOR, Mich. One of the biggest questions facing Americans as the 2004 elections approach involves a tradeoff: Will those who currently have health insurance be willing to sacrifice in order to insure the 44 million people who don't?

The answer may turn out to be yes, according to the results of a new research study published in the August issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, especially if citizens have a chance to get together and talk about how coverage for the uninsured might affect them personally and society as a whole.

To explore whether the insured would help cover the uninsured, the research team based at the University of Michigan didn't turn to an opinion survey. Instead, they asked 322 insured people to play a board game that's a cross between Monopoly and the Game of Life, but with a focus on health and insurance.

Called CHAT, for Choosing Healthplans All Together, the game gives players a limited number of pegs (dollars) to allocate to many categories of insurance coverage, including funding to help the uninsured. Then, randomly drawn cards representing health problems and crises show players how the health plan they designed would work in the case of an illness or injury to themselves or others.

By watching what choices the 322 players made when they were designing health plans for themselves, and listening to the conversations the players had when they had to work together as a group to design a health plan for their community, the researchers saw and heard how players regarded coverage for the uninsured.

At the start of the game, just over half of the players said they'd use at least 4 percent of their own family's insurance spending to help fund insurance for the uninsured. The majority of them chose to cover only uninsured children.

When groups of eight to 15 players got together to design community-wide health plans, though, all of the groups elected to cover the uninsured in som

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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