Opinion

Old Habits Die Hard

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Posted: Feb 20, 2020 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Old Habits Die Hard

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When in doubt, go back to the well. That is the default position of most politicians, as innovation and anything new is viewed as “risky.” Unfortunately, new and risky are exactly what so many of our problems require if we’re to avoid economic collapse in the coming decade.

It’s much easier to kick the can down the road on something like Medicare, which is going bankrupt, or Social Security, which basically already is. 

Rather than do their jobs, politicians put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound and send the patient home to deal with the problem another day. When they do decide to “do something,” it’s inevitably the wrong thing.

When forced to action, or as is more often the case, seizing an opportunity to advance an agenda item, politicians, particularly liberal ones, pull something from their bag of tricks that sounds good but won’t work. 

That’s why we keep ending up going back to the concept of price controls in health care. 

Obamacare was an unmitigated disaster, but it was never really designed to work. It was supposed to hasten the end of private health insurance by driving private health insurance companies out of business. Democrats couldn’t get a single-payer health care plan passed in 2010, so they settled for baby steps. That was Obamacare.

With federal mandates and regulations, eventually private health insurance would become too costly for anyone to afford or the companies selling it to continue to operate. The problem for Democrats was it worked too well, and prices skyrocketed immediately. It was supposed to take awhile; enough time had to pass so the public would forget Democrats created the mess they were at the ready to “solve” with a complete and final takeover. 

Democrats are now open to the (correct) charge that the problems they’re proposing to “fix” are problems they’re responsible for. They’re left to argue how big government failed and the only solution is bigger government. 

If Republicans were smart (which, when it comes to health policy, they are not), they could argue exactly as I did - that the failures of liberal polities should necessitate the shrinking of government, not its expansion. But they’d not only have to be able to explain that to people, they’d have to believe it. Sadly, too few Republicans who run on the concept of limited government and free markets actually believe in limited government and free markets. Those who do are marginalized.

So you end up with a sinking ship with one side welcoming the water and the other proposing bailing it out with a spoon. 

While the big fight continues, Democrats are always fighting on the edges. That, thankfully, is where those conservative Members of Congress can make a difference, can hold the line.

One such issue is the problem called “surprise medical billing.” It’s exactly what it sounds like - huge bills insurance companies refuse to pay for customers because they’ve incurred them, for example, during a hospital stay. The hospital is in network, their main doctor is in network, but others who provide services are not.

Most people assume that if they go to the right place, someplace their insurance company says is OK, they’ll be covered. But they often aren’t. So while you have a surgeon who is covered by your insurance, maybe the anesthesiologist isn’t. Guess who gets that bill?

This is as good a place as any to mention that insurance companies are worthless. They really are. Things like surprise medical billing makes you think they’re taunting Congress, daring them to destroy their business. Rather than covering necessary costs, expanding their networks, or simply being upfront with their customers so they can make informed decisions or alternative arrangements ahead of time, they remain silent. 

These bills, which can be quite large, have empowered Democrats to push for European-style price controls. It’s a “solution,” I guess, but it would be a disaster. Basic economics dictates that if you want less of something limit what someone can make from it. 

Democrats don’t care, they want to destroy the private health industry so they can control it. Whether they do it in one fell swoop or a little piece at a time makes no difference to them; they’re focused on the goal.

That’s why Democrats are pushing the idea of price controls to “fix” surprise medical billing. Thankfully, there are still a few Republicans willing to stand up to them.

A group of them, led by Republican Andy Harris from Maryland, who happens to be a doctor himself, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi saying, in part, “By design, placing such price controls on purely private transactions would reduce access to care, increase the power of the federal government, and result in negative unintended consequences.” 

I take issue with the idea that the consequences would be unintended (the history of the failure of price controls is well documented), but the sentiment is correct. And it’s nice to have some Members, even if it’s only 39, standing up to a disastrous concept. 

It would also be nice if insurance companies stopped arming people intent on their destruction with so many opportunities to do it. 

Even if this attempt is thwarted, Democrats will be back. When it comes to advancing their agendas, the two parties could not be more different. When Republicans lose, they throw up their hands and say, “Well, we tried. Moving on…” When Democrats lose, they keep pushing forward. They’re like the Terminator, they can’t be reasoned with and will never stop. 

That tenacity is truer when it comes to health care than any other area. There’s too much money, too much power, too much control at stake there for big government leftists to leave it alone. That’s why Republicans had better stop being afraid of it and get engaged.

There are a million bad “solutions” for health care. If Republicans don’t coalesce around the concepts of freedom and competition, all of them will get through, in the name of compassion, starting with price controls. And once the government takes over, we’re never getting rid of it. 

Derek Hunter is the host of a free daily podcast (subscribe!), host of a daily radio show on WCBM in Maryland, and author of the book, Outrage, INC., which exposes how liberals use fear and hatred to manipulate the masses. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekAHunter.