There ought to be plenty of room to agree on healthcareIn early October, the Budgeteer reported on an Oct. 1 speech by Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota’s State Commissioner of Health. Much of the substance of the article was bookended by comments from Buddy Robinson, of the Minnesota Citizens Federation Northeast, and by Becky Hall, of the Northern Liberty Alliance, a Tea Party group.
By: Pete Langr, for the budgeteer
In early October, the Budgeteer reported on an Oct. 1 speech by Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota’s State Commissioner of Health. Much of the substance of the article was bookended by comments from Buddy Robinson, of the Minnesota Citizens Federation Northeast, and by Becky Hall, of the Northern Liberty Alliance, a Tea Party group.
“Healthcare should be a right and not a market commodity,” Robinson said. In contrast, Hall told the reporter that it’s not the government’s role to reduce costs of anything in a free market economy and that “There is no need for a government bureaucrat to be involved in (the healthcare) process.”
No wonder we’re arguing about healthcare,
especially when both statements are wrong.
Robinson states that healthcare is a right, but if so, it’s only a right in the sense that we have the liberty to work for it on our own just like we have a right to food, heat and housing, but only if we pay for them ourselves. There are almost no recognized rights in America that extend to forcing others to pay for them (one exception is the constitutional right to a lawyer) and Americans’ fear of the nanny state means no such right is going to appear.
But just like there’s no right to healthcare, the idea that government, or government bureaucrats, shouldn’t be involved is equally outside mainstream thought. To argue otherwise is to say that we’re just fine if seniors with preexisting conditions and fixed incomes should be forced to beg for healthcare in their later years, that the huge amount of kids whose parents can’t buy them healthcare should be neglected, and that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who both supported government- mandated and -operated healthcare for private citizens, didn’t understand the proper role of government.
What both sides in the healthcare debate seem to have agreed upon, though, is the desirability of employer-paid healthcare. Dr. Ehlinger, who supports the Affordable Care Act (pejoratively labeled Obamacare), lamented the shift in costs from employer to employee. Meanwhile, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, an opponent, recently complained that “one in three businesses will drop their employee health insurance … forcing employees to find ‘government approved’ insurance…”
Once again, both sides are wrong. Employer paid- health insurance is the worst of both worlds.
Free market advocates should detest employer paid-health insurance because there is no well-functioning free market for insurance when the individuals who need it aren’t the ones making the purchasing decision, and there is no well-functioning market for health care services when the people receiving the services aren’t the ones paying. A market where the consumer or the employee don’t care how much his healthcare costs because it is “free” is no market, and a market where the purchaser or the employer invisibly pass most of the cost of “free” health insurance onto the worker in the form of foregone wage increases is doubly bad.
It is beyond me why any free market advocate would defend this bureaucratic system of purchasing healthcare.
But neither should those on the left support the system of employer sponsored insurance because such a system still leaves many uninsured, and it leaves many clinging to their jobs for no reason than that they have a preexisting condition and can’t get insurance any other way and because it sets up a system in which those who have good insurance have little incentive to concern themselves with the plight of the
If we had wanted to design a healthcare system that doesn’t insure everyone, while also being overly expensive and bureau-
cratic, we might have designed our current system of employer paid health insurance. One would think that the two sides would agree that the demise of that system would be a good thing.
But don’t expect that to happen soon. Getting something for “free” (even when its cost comes out of wage increases you didn’t get) is simply too attractive.
That maybe leaves me all alone in thinking that it will be salutary if millions of Americans no longer have employer-sponsored health insurance, and that they instead are guaranteed the ability to buy insurance that meets their individual needs on well-regulated, “government approved,” and transparent free market insurance exchanges.
Budgeteer columnist Pete Langr writes every other week in the Budgeteer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.