Monday, September 14, 2015

Which Healthcare 'Middleman' Should be Eliminated: Private Insurers or Government?

I believe, and have argued, that for the Left ObamaCare was but another step toward some manifestation of government-run, single-payer healthcare in America. A New Jersey Star-Ledger letter indicates the direction the post-ObamaCare debate over healthcare will take. In Eliminating the costly private-insurance middleman, the correspondent writes:

In his April 16 column, Paul Mulshine notes that Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are all heavily subsidized by the federal government. He suggests putting all that money into a basic health plan that gives every American a voucher for health insurance from a private company.

If we take that route, why insert the costly private-insurance middleman?

Why indeed? Paul Mulshine is a libertarian-leaning free market advocate. But this letter highlights the danger posed by free marketeers who water down their principles with statist schemes like vouchers.

I know the economic arguments for ideas like vouchers. There would competition among insurers. Consumers would have more choices. And this is true. But economics has never been the primary concern of “universal healthcare” advocates. A moral “right” to healthcare is their argument, and the government should ensure that right. Once you accept the statists’ premise, you fatally undercut the free market argument—the real moral healthcare.

Vouchers always mean government control on some level. If the government is paying, it can and will set the terms for what kinds of insurance are acceptable. While free marketeers argue that this still reduces government’s role, the statists will argue, plausibly, “If the government is going to pay for health insurance, then why do we need private insurance?”

That’s the next political battleground in healthcare.

I left these comments:
Since government intervention caused all of the problems in American healthcare—soaring costs, third-party-payers, pre-existing conditions, massive bookkeeping overhead—it makes more sense to eliminate the government as the middleman.

Healthcare and health insurance problems started spiralling out of control after government started intervening in the middle of the 20th Century. The government now controls the health insurance industry, dictating the kinds of policies insurers are allowed to offer. The government dictates to a major extent how doctors and hospitals can practice, and what they get paid. Half of all healthcare spending now comes from single-payer government programs. Another 40% comes from government controlled “private” insurers.

Given all of this government domination, it’s idiotic to blame private insurers for high costs and inefficiency. Where are the private insurers? We don’t even have real insurance, thanks to government-imposed health insurance mandates. Medicare doesn’t have low overhead. It merely transfers most of its administrative costs onto private doctors and other government agencies. Ask any doctor how much time they spend on paperwork. It’s even more idiotic—and immoral—to transfer whatever private control over healthcare we have left to the government and call that a “solution.” Just because other countries have total centralized healthcare doesn’t mean it’s the right path. If they had slavery, should we follow?

In fact, they do have slavery—of the healthcare profession—and we shouldn’t follow. A free market in healthcare is the only moral and practical answer. Americans have the right to act on their own judgement about their own healthcare. Healthcare consumers, insurers, and providers have the right to contract voluntarily to mutual advantage with each other without government mandates. The natural incentives of the free market—providers competing for the consumers’ dollars and consumers seeking the best quality for the lowest price—leads inexorably to rising quality and dramatically lower prices. Today, we have an unfree market, and that’s what should be blamed for the problems.

With steadily increasing government intervention, all we’ve gotten is more problems followed by more calls for more interventions masquerading as “healthcare reform.” How many failed government interventions will it take before we face up to the obvious? Healthcare is rightfully and morally a private matter, not a government matter. We need to eliminate the coercive middleman—government—and liberate private individuals to voluntarily manage their own healthcare affairs. We need Moral Health Care, not “Universal Health Care” or its equivalent. Barring a fully free market, Mulshine’s voucher plan is much better—or at least much less bad—than eliminating private insurers.

Related Reading:

I Don't Know': The Ideal Libertarian And Conservative Response To Obamacare's Failings—by John Tamny @ Forbes

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