Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social insurance programs are bankrupting America. They will produce ever-escalating deficits for as far as the eye can see.
So what can we do about it? All we hear out of Washington are "eat-your-spinach" solutions — both from Democrats and Republicans. These involve cutting benefits, forcing doctors to ration health care, etc. Naturally, the beneficiaries resist such change.
My colleagues and I at the National Center for Policy Analysis have been thinking about a different approach. Reform of entitlement programs should be a win-win proposition. That is, it should be good for the individual who agrees to accept fewer government benefits as well as for the taxpayers.
Here is part of the idea. People of any age should have the choice to opt out of social insurance in favor of alternatives that better meet their individual and family needs. In particular, they should be able to substitute assets and arrangements they have voluntarily chosen, and that they own and control, for the government systems they are now forced to be part of. In particular:
• People should be able to substitute private savings, private pensions and annuities, and private insurance for participation in Social Security.
• They should be able to substitute private insurance and private health savings for participation in Medicare and for participation in the federalized health care system sometimes called ObamaCare.
• They should be able to substitute private disability insurance for participation in the federal disability program.
• They should be able to substitute private savings, private pensions and annuities, and private insurance for participation in Medicaid’s long-term care insurance.
• At their place of work, employees and their employers should be free to choose private unemployment insurance arrangements, private disability insurance and private alternatives to workers’ compensation.
There is only one general condition that must govern these choices: They must not increase the expected burden for other taxpayers. This means (1) there must be a reasonable expectation that the direct tax burden for others will not rise as a result of an individual’s opting out and (2) there must be a reasonable expectation that the individual will not try to return to the government program (thus creating an additional burden for everyone else) if the private option turns out to be disappointing.