Saturday, June 17, 2017

Government, Not Industry, is the Predator in Health Insurance

The New Jersey Star-Ledger followed up NJ Representative Tom MacArthur’s ruckus town hall meeting by ridiculing MacArthur for comparing the fears about the GOP taking away the guarantee of pre-existing condition coverage with the earlier fears about “Death Panels” under ObamaCare.

At his town hall meeting, MacArthur said:

"I think it speaks to the people's fear, but it reminds me a bit, people were saying President Obama wanted to set up death panels, wanted old people to die," he said. "You look back now and you realize how insane people got with their fear and their anger."

The maestro of the Obamacare repeal now says that he was referring to common "scare-tactics" used to "drum up fear," but nothing is more alarming than miscuing the national reaction to the resurrection of this fetid corpse known as the American Health Care Act.

MacArthur doesn't seem to remember: Sarah Palin and her acolytes used "death panel" to spread a lie - refuted in every advanced culture - that government involvement in health care means rationing and death.

The fear he witnessed Wednesday night is based on the fact that federal involvement in health care is a necessity, because it ensures that nobody is left out or exploited by a predatory industry - just the opposite of a death panel, you might say. [emphasis added]

It’s that last paragraph that got my attention. So, I left these comments:

This is exactly backward. It is the government that has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. Only the government, through its unique law-making powers, can force you to comply with its edicts under threat of throwing you in a cage. It is only the government that, through its power to take your money at gunpoint—its taxing powers—can force us into an employer-based system of health insurance, so if you lose your job you lose your insurance—thus getting a lot of people stuck with a “pre-existing condition” through no fault of their own. It is only the government that can force up our insurance premiums through “essential benefit” mandates that we otherwise wouldn’t buy. It is the government that forcibly bans insurance companies from competing, to the detriment of consumers. It is the government that forcibly forbids health insurance companies from performing the essential task at the heart of the purpose of insurance—to fairly price policies according to an objective assessment of risk. Only a government can force you to buy health insurance only government central planners approve of. Only a government can forcibly take money from some people to subsidize others it deems “left out.”

Industry cannot do any of that. It cannot force anyone to buy its product. A private company can only make offers. Consumers are free to accept the offer, attempt to negotiate better terms, or reject it and go to a competitor (if the market is free from government interference). Consumers are free to say to a private company what they are not free to say to the government—“NO.”

The fact is, the current health insurance industry is not a real insurance industry. The government has gone way beyond its only morally proper function of using its legal monopoly on the use of force to protect individual rights through, for example, policing the insurance markets against fraud, breach of contract, and the like. After decades of increasing government controls, all imposed at the point of a gun, seemingly “private” health “insurance” has essentially become an arm of socialistic government coercion and forced redistribution. Through myriad interventions engineered by politicians who never concern themselves with unintended consequences or the rights of their constituents to make their own choices based on the own judgement according to their own personal circumstances and interests, the government has caused all of the problems we now demand government fix. American health insurance is a victim of predation, all right—a predatory government.

Federal involvement in health care is not only not a necessity—it is destructive of real health insurance that people can actually use to fulfil their personal moral responsibility of paying and managing their own way on healthcare. The problems of government interference in healthcare go beyond private health insurance. But on the ACA vs.AHCA debate, my view is that we must step back and acknowledge that government control of health insurance has had its chance and it has failed. It’s time to return power to the people—the power of freedom and individual rights that only free market reforms can achieve. Unfortunately, the GOP’s AHCA tinkers, but it really is only a form of ObamaCare without Obama.  

Related Reading:

Health Care vs. Universal Health Care, by Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh

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