George Will

Most Americans do not know this because the cost of their care is hidden. Only 9 percent buy health coverage individually, and $84 of every $100 spent on health care is spent by someone (an employer, insurance company or government) other than recipients of the care. Those who get insurance as untaxed compensation from employers have no occasion to compute or confront the size of that benefit. But it is part of the price their employers pay for their work.

The president says the health care market "has not worked perfectly." Indeed. Only God, supposedly, and Wrigley Field, actually, are perfect. Anyway, given the heavy presence of government dollars (46 percent of health care dollars) and regulations, the market, such as it is, is hardly free to work.

As market enthusiasts, conservatives should stop warning that the president's reforms will result in health care "rationing." Every product, from a jelly doughnut to a jumbo jet, is rationed -- by price or by politics. The conservative's task is to explain why price is preferable. The answer is that prices produce a rational allocation of scarce resources.

Regarding reform, conservatives are accused of being a party of "no." Fine. That is an indispensable word in politics because most new ideas are false and mischievous. Furthermore, the First Amendment's lovely first five words ("Congress shall make no law") set the negative tone of the Bill of Rights, which is a list of government behaviors, from establishing religion to conducting unreasonable searches, to which the Constitution says: No.

The president may have been too clever when he decided, during an economic crisis that was sending federal expenditures soaring and revenues plummeting, to push the entire liberal agenda on the premise that every item on it is essential to combating the crisis.

Now the health care debate is coming to a boil just as public anxiety about the deficit is, too. As cost estimates pass the $1 trillion mark, the administration is reduced to talking about financing its reforms with mini-measures such as a 3 cent tax on sugary sodas. The public, its attention riveted by the fiscal train wreck of trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future, may be coming to the conclusion that we should leave bad enough alone.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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