Much of the media coverage of the Presidential campaign has focused upon two issues — the war in Iraq and health care. The latter has been particularly prominent in Democratic Presidential debates and upon the campaign trail. The three leading Democratic Presidential candidates – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) – have stated they would urge Congress to implement mandatory universal health care run by the Federal Government. The Republicans have been underwhelming on the issue, failing to advocate aggressively and articulately free-market reforms.
Universal health care is synonymous with government-run health care. While candidates praise the virtues of such coverage, the reality is far different. In a government-run system, costs can be controlled but this is done through rationing. For examples of how this works in practice, one need look no further than Canada or Great Britain, where patients must wait months or years to see a physician and receive treatment for basic, non-emergency ailments. Such a system of rationing inevitably takes a toll upon people’s health and life-expectancy.
If universal health care is undesirable from a practical and ideological standpoint, what reforms should be made to improve health care in America?
First, people should be able to choose what services they want covered. Instead of having prepackaged, one-size-fits-all plans, consumers could choose what they can afford and need. The cost of health insurance is exceedingly high in some states because podiatrists, acupuncturists, massage therapists and others must be covered by law, according to Larry Elder in INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY. The average healthy person has no need of such services and potentially would be more willing to purchase a cheaper insurance plan that did not include non-essential benefits.
Second, insurance should be portable. In other words, consumers should be able to purchase insurance wherever they want, from an insurance company incorporated in any state in the Union. Heavy regulations in states like New Jersey and New York have driven the price of health care beyond the reach of many, while states such as Kentucky and Oklahoma have kept costs low. According to Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) in “Competition: A Prescription for Health Care Transformation,” published by the Heritage Foundation, the price of a health insurance policy in New Jersey is seven times that of one in Kentucky.