Last Wednesday the nation was riveted to the President’s speech on healthcare reform before Congress. While the President’s concern for the uninsured is no doubt sincere, his plan amounts to a magnanimous gift to the health insurance industry, despite any implications to the contrary.
For decades the insurance industry has been lobbying for mandated coverage for everyone. Imagine if the cell phone industry or the cable TV industry received such a gift from government? If government were to fine individuals simply for not buying a corporation’s product, it would be an incredible and completely unfair boon to that industry, at the expense of freedom and the free market. Yet this is what the current healthcare reform plans intend to do for the very powerful health insurance industry.
The stipulation that pre-existing conditions would have to be covered seems a small price to pay for increasing their client pool to 100% of the American people. A big red flag, however, is that they would also have immunity from lawsuits, should they fail to actually cover what they are supposedly required to cover, so these requirements on them are probably meaningless. Mandates on all citizens to be customers of theirs, however, are enforceable with fines and taxes.
Insurance providers seem to have successfully equated health insurance with health care but this is a relatively new concept. There were doctors and medicine long before there was health insurance. Health insurance is not a bad thing, but it is not the only conceivable way to get health care. Instead, we seem to still rely on the creativity and competence of politicians to solve problems, which always somehow seem to be tied in with which lobby is the strongest in Washington.
It is sad to think of the many creative, free market solutions that government prohibits with all its interference. What if instead of joining a health insurance plan, you could buy a membership directly from a hospital or doctor? What if a doctor wanted to have a cash-only practice, or make house calls, or determine his or her own patient load, or otherwise practice medicine outside the constraints of the current bureaucratic system? Alternative healthcare delivery models will be at an even stronger competitive disadvantage if families are forced to buy into the insurance model. And yet, the reforms are sold to us as increasing competition.
What if just once Washington got out of the way and allowed the ingenuity of the American people to come up with a whole spectrum of alternatives to our broken system? Then the free market, not lobbyists and politicians, would decide which models work and which did not.
Unfortunately, the most broken aspect of our system is that Washington sees the need to act on every problem in society, rather than staying out of the way, or getting out of the way. The only tools the government has are force and favors. These are tools that many unscrupulous and lazy corporations would like to wield to their own advantage, rather than simply providing a better product that people will willingly buy. It seems the health insurance industry will get more of those advantages very soon.
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