Pick your poison with big government health care

by | Feb 16, 2008 | Capitol Review, Notes

Just as local experts were revealing their plans to "fix" what ails Colorado, a heavy-handed health care overhaul crashed on the rocks in California and Democrat presidential candidates clashed over the appropriate size of government’s health care hammer.

Labor Democrats joined with Republicans in California to kill Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed mandate when they realized that working families might not be able to afford health care plans they would be legally required to purchase — logic that equally applies to non-union households.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has dared to criticize Hillary Clinton’s health care expertise, pointing out that HillaryCare 2.0 "forces everyone to buy health insurance, even if you can’t afford it."

Clinton acknowledges that any law requiring everyone to buy health insurance must include an "enforcement mechanism," and amid much ducking and dodging, she won’t rule out "going after people’s wages" if they don’t pay up on their own.

Take a deep breath and think about that for a moment: serious candidates for president are actually debating whether government should garnish your wages to force you to buy something you may not need or cannot afford.

Remember, Ronald Reagan warned us: "Government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have."

Yet that’s what must inevitably happen if we continue to allow politicians to coerce us into government-knows-best health care. We wouldn’t dream of allowing our elected officials or their bureaucratic underlings to dictate other essentials – like the food we eat, the clothes we wear, or where we live. So why do we seem so willing to accept that they should dictate how we buy health care?

Health care is expensive for one simple reason: consumers rarely get to make choices based on actual costs and benefits. Whether you buy your own insurance, your employer provides it, or you both share the cost, you have very little control over the price you pay and even less incentive to control costs.

Premiums almost always increase even if you never file a claim, so what’s the point in trying to cut costs if you never see the savings? When you finally become sick or injured, you understandably figure, "Now I’m gonna get mine!"

We must come to grips with the economic realities of health care:

• Scarcity. Demand for health care will always exceed the money available to pay for it. For most of us with "normal" health care needs, the critical question is, "Would you rather make the tough choices for yourself or let politicians and bureaucrats make them for you?"

• Cost control. Prices are controlled either through competition or rationing. Except for emergency treatment, consumers savvy enough to purchase big screen TVs, cars or homes are shrewd enough to compare prices and services for health care. The alternative is for state or federal government to set a budget and use certain criteria — e.g., probability of survival, cost of treatment — to decide who has a chance to live and who is likely to die.

• Hardship. Because we will not deny care to the truly poor or needy, we must devise a simple, transparent system to provide adequate care for those who are either too poor or too sick to pay for it themselves. This system must be a only safety net and not a hammock.

For the entire history of our country, citizens have enjoyed the right to decide how to pay for health care. Now, because federal and state lawmakers have distorted the market and limited our choices, we must choose between insurance we can barely afford, no insurance at all, or welfare-style government care.

We are standing at the edge, about to be herded over a cliff, forced to "pick our poison": a law that mandates we buy insurance approved by politicians or a "single-payer plan" in which we all become rats doomed to navigate the maze of government bureaucracy.

Instead we should boldly demand that politicians, lobbyists, hospitals and insurance companies stop telling us what to do and instead give us the options and information we need to decide for ourselves.

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