I’ve been looking up a lot of health insurance data in the past few weeks and keep running into a strange problem: An interesting report will have information some indicator or another for 49 states and the District of Columbia — and an asterisk where some or all of the California data ought to be.

Or, data in the California spot, but an asterisk on the data explaining that the figures given there are incomplete.

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The problem is that California has had its insurance companies reporting health insurance data in filings that go to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), and its managed care companies reporting similar data in filings that go to the California Department of Managed Health Care but not to the NAIC.

The result is that many analysts trying to keep tabs on the U.S. health care finance system end up having holes where the California health maintenance organization (HMO) providers and HMO enrollees ought to be.

On the one hand, diversity is beautiful. States have rights. Beautiful.

On the other hand: Why is it so hard to get a statistician in California and someone at the NAIC to work together to create supplemental tables that show roughly what the tables would look like if the California managed care companies filed blanks with the California Department of Insurance?

On the third hand, it seems as if, for the government, the goal of providing clear, easy-to-understand tracking data is something that applies to the private sector, not to government agencies. Why should government agencies have to practice what they preach?

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