John Stossel

The statist establishment would love a single-payer health-care system like Canada's if it were politically achievable. Barack Obama said that if we were starting from scratch, single payer is what he'd back. But, thankfully, Americans are still libertarian enough to cringe at turning the medical system entirely over to government.

So with single payer out of reach, the fans of government control have grabbed for second best: the "public option." This would be government-run health insurance that would "compete" with private insurance. (It wouldn't compete fairly because it could do something no private firm can do: milk the captive taxpayers.) But the public option is proving hard to get. Even some Democrats are nervous about it.

What's a statist to do?

Leading Democrats in the Senate say the answer might be nonprofit health cooperatives. Sen. Charles Schumer wants some method "to keep the companies honest," and if the "public competitor" can "do those things in a co-op form, I think we're open to it".

One sign that this may be the way things are heading is that the New York Times, the mouthpiece of the statist establishment, ran a front-page article last week that begins with glowing praise for a co-op where doctors have lots of time to spend with patients because of its "collaborative model of primary care." Among the media it's an article of faith that the "collaborative model" is more consumer friendly than a profit-seeking business.

The Times connects the dots in case anyone missed the point. "On Capitol Hill, those innovations have made Group Health a prototype for a political compromise that could unclog health care negotiations in the Senate and lead to a bipartisan deal. ... [T]he Senate Finance Committee seems poised to propose private-sector insurance cooperatives ... as its primary mechanism for stoking competition and slowing the growth of medical costs."

Give me a break. Since when is government needed to stoke competition? Competition is what happens when government lets people alone. I defy anyone to give me an example of lack of competition that doesn't have its roots in government intervention.

Since co-ops are nonprofit organizations owned by their members, the Times' story subtly implies that the profit motive is responsible for the absence of competition and higher medical costs. But that's ridiculous. In a free market without government barriers to entry, it's the quest for profit that produces competition and lower costs.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate