I hope civics teachers across the nation are taking advantage of the learning opportunity the Republican and Democratic parties are handing them in the health care debate.
It shows the natural progression of government “problem-solving.”
On the first count, the U.S. health care system is an excellent example of how government takes something good and destroys it.
How it works is this. First, government passes a law that begins to regulate something in someway. The regulation, of course, interferes in the natural market so prices go up and service declines. Government tells the people there is a problem and that it will fix it with some reform. The reform further erodes the market and increases the government control over the thing, which in turn leads to greater problems. Government then says it will reform it, ignoring the fact that the problem began with the first reform. And this continues until government largely controls it and it is a royal mess.
This is obviously happening with health care.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, America’s socialists, who called themselves Progressives, began advocating for a national health system. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of the American Medical Association, that effort failed. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt could not get a national health care system passed as part of his New Deal. President Harry Truman tried the same with his Fair Deal.
But they did not give up. In 1951, the beginning of the end occurred when the IRS gave tax breaks to employers to provide health insurance. This tied insurance to employment. It also made individuals less responsible for the costs of the insurance, which naturally drives up prices.
If you don’t believe me, take an honest look at how your spending on groceries would change if someone said they would pay for 50 percent of your groceries. You would probably shop more carelessly and spend more as well.
Every successive reform of the health care industry has resulted in greater damage to the system, from the first tax breaks to Obamacare.
Now the Republicans, instead of doing the right thing and repealing Obamacare, they are simply dressing it up a little.
The health care solution is simple, really. Let the market work. Private markets produce steadily lower prices in real terms and steadily rising quality.
In the health care field, while the quality of health care has increased dramatically, the prices have as well. This is because it is so heavily regulated by government that market forces cannot touch it. Government regulation, in essence, is a protective shield that prevents market forces from driving costs down.
If we want to fix the American health care system we need to flush the government out of it.
We need serious market-based reforms. We need to eliminate many of the thousands of government regulations that hamper the free market. We need to transition away from an employer-based health insurance system so the individual consumers would have more choice as well as more accountability and portability in their health insurance.
We should give the same tax breaks companies get for providing health insurance to those who wish to buy their insurance on the market. We should increase and encourage the use of health savings accounts and make them easier to use.
We should also privatize Medicare (and Social Security for that matter). We should allow cross-state health insurance purchases and we need malpractice reform. We also need to eliminate the Department of Health and Human Services.
Leftists would have you believe that opposing a government-run health care system is somehow heartless. But the reality is the exact opposite is true. The only humane and effective health care system is one that is naturally regulated through market forces.
The sooner we end the Pollyannaish belief that government can somehow be in control of health care and, at the same time, make it affordable, accessible, efficient and effective, the sooner we can actually fix our failing government-run health system and create a true market-based one that would drive down costs and make it easier for everyone to have better access to the greatest health care in the world.
Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is an attorney with the Hearn Law Office in Wapakoneta (419-738-8171) and night editor of The Lima News. Reach him by telephone at 567-242-0398, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @ThomasLucente.