For many months now (and probably for a few more), Congress has debated healthcare reform, the most important issue of Obama’s presidency. If Congress passes anything, even if it isn’t the most perfect legislation, it will undoubtedly be a huge accomplishment. But that’s the question, isn’t it? Are they devising the kind of healthcare overhaul we really need, and will it work?
Despite all rhetoric to the contrary, the public-option plan emerging from the debate over healthcare is far from what we were initially promised: a deficit-neutral, bipartisan plan that would cover most — if not all — of the approximately 40 to 50 million uninsured individuals in the country. Besides the theoretical consideration that this plan will severely restrict individual liberties, it is also likely to have unintended and serious consequences on future generations, beginning with our own.
First, the plan currently before Congress has stipulations providing for the compulsory obtainment of insurance. In addition to restricting individual liberty by depriving people of the choice not to have insurance, it may also have severe side effects, including the indirect elimination of health savings funds. Furthermore, compulsory coverage, combined with the health bill’s provision for price controls in the form of “community ratings” for insurance will have a direct and negative impact on the nation’s youth, while premiums for those most likely to be sick — the old — will go down through these price controls, premiums for those least likely to be sick — the young — will go up proportionally. This amounts to nothing more than the expansion of direct social welfare already present in Medicare.
Finally, this plan will certainly end up costing more than expected. The government’s ability to properly project the cost of social programs has never been stellar — think Medicare and Medicaid — and this healthcare plan is no exception. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s very own report fails to take into account several important factors such as 1) How businesses will change their behaviors to remain profitable and protect themselves from taxes; 2) The behavior of future politicians, who will likely increase subsidies as they have with Medicare to please constituents; and 3) The increases in spending every year, which will only be made more painful by the effects of economic contraction resulting from proposed tax increases causing a precipitous decrease in expected revenue.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because I think the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion healthcare bill passed by the House is a monstrosity doesn’t mean I favor the three-page, $61 billion Republican alternative. Frankly, it’s naïve to believe you’re helping anyone in the long run with either plan. However, hardly anyone has asked a very simple and fundamental question: Why can’t the market fix it? So often, harnessing the power of the market has greatly benefited the nation. This was true following the Reagan Administration, when the nation experienced the longest stretch of uninterrupted prosperity, so why not now?
Expand the market by offering Medicare recipients vouchers to obtain healthcare of their choosing, reform taxes on healthcare services to create huge healthcare savings accounts, break state monopolies on regulating healthcare insurance and allow people to buy insurance plans from other states. Add all this and what do you have? A formula that will reduce the size of government while giving individuals more freedom and choice — not to mention a potentially huge tax break of $9.7 trillion for workers — and give more people the ability to obtain quality healthcare and promote economic growth.
To all progressives, I issue this challenge: You say meaningful reform using the market is a pipedream — why? Why is it impossible to trust individuals in the marketplace? Why is it better to expand the state and eliminate freedom, rather than achieve the same goals by limiting government and giving people more freedom? And to those who are unsure on healthcare reform, I ask, which option would you rather have? The government’s? Or yours?