Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"...[C]ars are a lot less expensive than people."

I's been a while since I posted to the wombat 'blog. I've kinda started to feel lately that the things happening all around us to erode our liberty and steal our wealth have gotten so ridiculous that I just don't know how to respond. I guess, though, that these are the times when it becomes that much more important that I DO respond, even if it doesn't seem to do much good in the short term.

So...on with the show!

Let's start in Massachusetts...

BOSTON, April 4 -- The Massachusetts legislature approved a bill Tuesday that would require all residents to purchase health insurance or face legal penalties, which would make this the first state to tackle the problem of incomplete medical coverage by treating patients the same way it does cars. (the rest of the story)

Now...let me go on record as being of the firm opinion that this is a phenomenally bad idea. Why? Lots of reasons:

First, it totally ignores (or is perhaps oblivious to or in denial of) the price-increasing effect "health insurance" has had on health care to begin with. By hiding costs from patients, health insurance eliminates any incentive to shop for health care services based on price. When was the last time you saw a price list in a doctor's office? If a visit to the doctor only costs you a $20 co-pay, you might not think twice about making an appointment for a child with a sniffle. If, on the other hand, you had to fork over $120 of your hard-earned cash to see a doctor for something minor, you might give it a day or two to see if the sniffle gets better before running to the doctor for some professional reassurance of your parenting skills.

And what about those who can't afford health insurance? Don't worry, the Taxachusetts legislature thought of that too, and they'll happily subsidize coverage for anyone whose income falls below the national poverty level. Can't afford to spend your own money on health insurance? Fine, we'll spend everyone else's money on it for you. In all fairness, this really isn't much different from what happens now across the country. Federal law prohibits hospitals from refusing to treat emergencies based on an individual's inability to pay, but someone has to pay. Often taxpayers foot the bill for such treatment.

Those without health insurance will be subject to fines until they sign up for a policy. Likewise, businesses who do not provide health insurance for their employees may be fined for each employee who is uninsured. So what about those who don't want to carry health insurance? (I assure you, such people do exist) Well, they no longer have any say in the matter...either get health insurance, or pay up.

Say, that gives me a great idea! I'm going to start my own health insurance company for people in Massachusetts who don't want health insurance. The premiums will be less than the fine for not having insurance, but you'll only be able to visit doctors that are "in network". Little will the Massachusetts muckety-mucks know that the only doctor in the network is a Hoodoo witch woman who lives on a raft in the Louisiana bayou. I could make a couple hundred bucks, easy!

In all relative seriousness, the unmitigated gall with which these idiots proclaim their victory is even more astounding than the bill itself. The comparison between health insurance and automobile insurance has been made by Libertarian economists for years, but Governor Mitch Romney drove the point home with this gem:
"We insist that everybody who drives a car has insurance," Romney said in an interview. "And cars are a lot less expensive than people."


Even better was the proclamation by Uwe Reinhardt, professor of economics at Princeton, that
"Massachusetts is the first state in America to reach full adulthood," said Reinhardt, noting that the new measure is a move toward personal responsibility. "The rest of America is still in adolescence."

Personal responsibility? How is forcing someone to do something they should be doing for themselves anyway a "move toward personal responsibility"? Personal responsibility would mean giving individuals the choice of whether they wish to carry health coverage or not. Personal responsibility would mean that the individual decides how much to pay for health care and where. Quite simply, it would mean a return to free market health care. Some of these yahoos, though, think that's exactly what they're doing. The piece goes on to say:
The same message might provide a political boost to Romney, who is considering a presidential run in 2008. By proving he can work with Democrats, and find a health-care solution that relies on the private sector, Romney can portray himself as an executive who can work across the aisle in harshly partisan times.

I fail to see any way that this solution "relies on the private sector". Rather, it hogties the private sector into doing its bidding...into providing health insurance for those who may otherwise present too much risk; into accepting arbitrary government-specified rates for their services; into paying fines for refusing to provide services they may not be able to afford to provide.

This is typical reactionary government. I really shouldn't be surprised. Health insurance has thus far played a significant role in the rising costs of health care, and this bill simply adds fuel to that fire. Health care costs will continue to rise at an accelerated rate, and the march toward socialized medicine will proceed. House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said, "We did something to solve the problem." Indeed they did, but it's the wrong something.