Right now, the hot debate going on in Washington is repealing and/or replacing Obamacare. Democrats are saying the current efforts will throw people off their health insurance and put them out on the streets where they will be attacked by roving gangs of cannibalistic mimes or something like that. (The scariest thing about cannibalistic mimes? You’ll never hear them coming.) Republicans are doing their best to walk the tightrope between full repeal and partial repeal after campaigning solely on repealing Obamacare, mainly because they want to keep their jobs and not have to go on Obamacare or, horror of horrors, get a real job. While the debate wages on, there’s an important question that is going unanswered.
What role does the federal government have in health insurance?
The Left and the Right currently have the same solution, just a difference of how much control the government should have. The Left is pushing for the government to have more power, which is their answer for every social ill. The Right is pushing for a hybrid of government and private control, allowing for the federal government to act like an insurance company in the marketplace. But in the end, they both use the same excuse: we have to do something to protect the most vulnerable, and the government is the only entity with enough money and power to do that.
A great emotional appeal, to be sure, but it sets up a dangerous precedent that can literally cost American lives. A government large enough to gives you everything is large enough to take it all away, health insurance included. If you doubt this, ask the parents of Charlie Gard.
The important thing to remember about the federal government is they have little to no concept of market forces, mainly because they are the ones who print the money. He who prints the money can drive private interests out of business because he can print however much money he needs to compete and survive. That makes a hybrid of public and private options difficult at best because the government will always hold the monetary card, while running up the debt in the process. Brilliant!
The Left’s option is not much better: Medicare for everyone. Their logic is that Medicare for all is a) single payer, and b) gets the insurance companies out of the decision whether a procedure is covered. Let me deal with the second part first. Do you know what insurance entity currently denies the most claims? It’s the federal government. That’s right, kids. If you want your insurance claim denied, you’ll be more likely to be denied by the government than you will be from the evil insurance companies. But at least you won’t have to fill out forests of forms, right. Oh, wait…
As far as single payer is concerned, it’s a non-starter for me because it leads to the same problems the public/private hybrid referenced above have, but with an additional twist: it completely cuts out insurance companies. As cool as that sounds to some people, it ultimately reduces choice, which eliminates the incentive to offer new products. Let’s say you own a lemonade stand. (Hey, that would be a great idea for a computer game! Maybe someone will take this idea and run with it.) If your neighbor also has a lemonade stand, you have to keep innovating to make your stand successful. The more players in the lemonade market, the harder you will work to bring people to your stand.
Now, let’s say you are the only lemonade stand in the area. With nobody to take away your business, the only incentive you have to do better is whatever you decide to put into it. Let’s just say the federal government isn’t known for having the best and brightest in their ranks. Any institution that has had such intellectual lightweights as Sheila Jackson Lee and Joe Biden doesn’t exactly scream competence.
So, let’s go back to my original question. What role does the federal government have in health insurance?
There is no overwhelming need for the same federal government that can’t seem to pass a budget, balanced or otherwise, to become Big Brother Insurance Agency. This trumps any and all arguments for government supplied health insurance. Granted, the VA is an example of single payer that works, but it doesn’t work all the time. You know what would work? Getting government out of the insurance business and letting people buy what they wanted or needed.
You know, the way it was before Obamacare?
There are some parts of Obamacare I would like to keep, namely the part concerning pre-existing conditions. But that’s not enough for me to throw my support behind any government-run health insurance program. What would tip the scale for me would be if there are major reforms to the concept of government run health insurance, including an enforceable mechanism that would ensure the government treats every patient the same and with the utmost care. But since government run health insurance works like the DMV, it’s going to take a lot to get me to support it.
You know what does work in health insurance and health care? The free market. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best system we have. And you know what isn’t in the free market? The government as a competitor.
And if you’re still convinced government run health insurance will work, let me point out one final fact. Our government can’t balance its checkbook. What makes you think they can handle something more complex than not spending more than we make?