By Alan Burkhart
The biggest fiscal and political boondoggle in US history, the Democrat's so-called "health care reform," is coming down the pipe. Barring a miracle, it's coming soon to every home in America. A tragedy, that. We could have done so much better.
What led the left in this country to create such a monstrous and patently unsustainable legislative behemoth as this? I for one do not believe the blather of the extreme right any more than I do the braying of the extreme left. Sure, the left craves power like an addict craves his fix. But the right is nearly as guilty as the left in that regard. No, this all comes down to the mindset in Washington: The left loves to tinker. They love to meddle with the laws that govern our society like a dog worries a tasty bone. The resultant complexity that maddens most of us is fascinating to them. You and I see the United States Tax Code as a bloated juggernaut. The left sees it as a job well done. And the health care legislation, should it happen, will be to them what "Return of the Prodigal Son" was to Rembrandt: A masterpiece.
Imagine, given the momentum the Democrats had a few months ago, what they might have accomplished if they'd exercised some restraint and written legislation that made sense. Instead, they've done what they always do. They've created yet another Frankenstein monster that is already causing an uproar among the people and likely will catapult the Republicans back into power.
There is no perfect solution to the health care problem. But there are steps we could have taken. And those steps might yet be taken, provided the Democrats fail.
Mandatory Purchase of Health Insurance...
As people's money problems worsen, they're more likely to drop their health insurance to save money. This causes a trend toward a larger percentage of high-risk and high-expense policy holders with whom the insurers often lose money. Their only recourse is to raise the premiums on their existing customers. This isn't greed or gouging. It's survival. Insurance companies are businesses, and businesses have to make a profit to stay alive.
With much misgiving and a sizable chip on my shoulder, I am forced to concede that perhaps making coverage mandatory is a possible solution. This would have the effect of enlarging the pool of customers, and as long as people are free to shop for their insurance - just like we do with mandatory car insurance - the natural forces of free market competition would drive premiums down.
Leave Businesses Alone...
The fed's ridiculous idea of requiring employers to provide "free" insurance to employees must be tossed out the window. An employer should provide a good wage for good work. Beyond that and a safe work environment an employer has no obligations to those in his or her employ. If a company wishes to provide insurance as a perk, that's their business. It should not however, be the business of the federal government to require it. That requirement is, by the way, one the ideas the left is floating around.
Mandatory Coverage by Insurance Companies...
It must be required of the insurance companies that they cannot refuse to cover anyone for any reason. No preexisting conditions limitations, no dropping coverage on high-cost customers. Everyone must be eligible for coverage as long as they pay the bill. The whole idea behind insurance, after all, is that it be there when you most need it. Perhaps someone might ring up a few insurance providers and remind them of that little tidbit?
For those who are incapacitated by illness or injury, and therefore unable to pay their premium, Medicaid can pick up the bill until that person returns to work. This assumes that the federal government will find a way to return Medicaid and Medicare to profitability before they go bankrupt. This is one of the few instances when government intervention is justified. Health care is a system of goods and services. And goods and services cost money. Someone must pay bill. It is also reasonable to think that once one is back to work, those premiums paid by Medicaid should be reimbursed.
We need real tort reform. The junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals must go. Realistic limits on damages that are fair to all parties must be put into place. One of the reasons for higher priced care is the unbelievable cost of malpractice insurance. Tort reform would help with that. If the danger of catastrophic lawsuits lessens, the cost of malpractice insurance will begin to decrease. That in turn will lower physician's fees.
Keep the Fed out of the Way...
Contrary to the wishes of Obama, Pelosi and Reid, government involvement must be kept to an absolute minimum. Given the first two items above, insurance costs would go down within a year or two as long as Uncle Sam stays out of the way. The left often refers to the fact that most other developed nations already have government health care. But look at the cost. They're taxed unmercifully, resources are limited, and long waiting lines for treatment are common. Why do you think that a Canadian Premier came to the US recently for heart surgery? The Fraser Institute estimates that 41,000 Canadians sought health care in the US during 2009.
The minimization of federal involvement would be best accomplished by leaving enforcement issues to the states. The federal government's tendency to micromanage every aspect of anything it touches has always been a recipe for disaster. Give the states the autonomy to execute the law as works best for each. Each state is different, and a one size fits all plan wouldn't be a fit for anyone.
The Bottom Line...
There is no reason for anyone to see a tax increase with the simple ideas above. Costs would go down, quality of care would likely improve, and Americans would continue to enjoy the benefits of the world's best health care.
We don't need a massive new bureaucracy to manage our health care. We only need a handful of common sense reforms that benefit both the industry and its customers.Sources and Related Reading: