Who Does It Empower?

Posted: Sep 03, 2009 3:36 PM
With the president scheduled to speak on September 9, Reuters is sketching out scenarios of how the health care debate might proceed

As The White House tries desperately to get something -- anything -- passed so that it can claim "victory" and the President comes up with a plethora of new ideas, the one question everyone should ask is this: Does the proposal empower the people, or does it empower the state?

My guess is that the "new and improved" Obama plan will seek to capitalize on the political unpopularity of insurance companies, and call for greater regulation of insurance companies by the government.  It may sound good -- and satisfying for those who have a gripe with their own health insurer -- but in the end, all it does is increase government control over your health care.  What we need is more of our control over our health care -- not the government's.  (And for an excellent explanation of why an individual mandate -- which I also think the President will likely advocate -- is a terrible idea, check out this interview with Michael Cannon at NRO. Short answer: It puts government in control of every insurance plan that's available.).

Here are some ideas that would help Americans, rather than simply expand the size and power of government:

(1) Tort reform.  Studies have found that Americans pay an extra $2000 in health care premiums each year because of the high cost of malpractice insurance.

(2) Allow insurers to compete across state lines.  Right now, we can only purchase health insurance within our own states -- limiting people's ability to shop around for the best deals, and easing competitive pressure on health insurers.  Why not open the market nationwide and give people more choices?

(3) Delink employment and health insurance.   Why not let each American have his or her own health account that travels with him/her from job to job?  Tax incentives could help people significantly with the costs of purchasing health care.

(4) Encourage "Whole Foods style" health care -- where employers, (or for those who need government help, the government), or tax incentives work to defray the costs of a high-deductible plan, but leave it to people themselves to be financially responsible for the lesser costs that drive imprudent use of the health care system.  (Incidentally, if people were actually paying their own doctor's office visit costs, you can bet that there'd be (a) cost savings (b) more pleasant office staffs and (c) less waiting as doctors started to compete, too).

If these measures will work, what's wrong with trying them -- before we launch a new government leviathan overseen by the friendly folks at the IRS?