Paul Krugman wonders how health care will work after the Democrats’ proposed reforms pass through Congress. That question may be premature, although it’s a good bet that they will pass something “ugly”, in the words of Steven Hayes.
Here’s my prediction: If Democrats succeed in forcing a publicly-funded health care plan into law, it will not do anything to improve services or lower costs. If they don’t, what’s the point of doing anything at all?
The reason why a public option will be a marginal product is self-evident. Simply imagine a Medicare program increased by an order of magnitude and you have the disaster envisioned by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the communist kids at Kos.
If Democrats cared about lowering health care costs then they would be looking at ways to provide health care consumers with real choices. They are not doing so by implementing a taxpayer-funded plan because the plan will either be a financial failure like Medicare or succeed in driving private insurers out of business. Neither is a win for consumers.
What would make a difference for real Americans, the ones who work and pay and die in this country, is to have actual choices for health insurance. The first step in making real choice available would be to remove decades of legislation that stops insurers from competing on a national level. Sweep aside this outdated flotsam and insurers will be forced to compete harder simply to survive.
A second step to more competitive markets would be to do away with employer-sponsored health plans. This may sound like a radical step, but consider how insane the current situation is. Employers have no business picking insurance plans for their employees, yet that is exactly what happens to most Americans. If we want the employer money – which we must have simply to pay the premiums each month – we have to take the plan or plans they offer. This is anti-competitive in the extreme. Employers should stop offering health care plans and pay people for doing their jobs. Employees can then go and purchase a plan that makes sense for them on the open market.
A third and different thing that Americans need is a health care savings account. We should be paying for our own future health care expenses in advance, when we’re young, healthy, and don’t need the medical care. Think of it as a 401k for retirement’s inevitable decline in health. The health care spending accounts that many of us have are pale imitations of a real savings account and should be dropped.
Given that Democrats are not talking about any of these essential reforms, it seems apparent that they are simply interested in making their political hay by pandering to the ultra-liberal left that has been clamoring non-stop for socialized medicine for decades. Their time – and ours – would be better spent on a serious discussion of the issues, not playing intra-party politics with our medical care.