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First, Minimise the Harm

August 29, 2009

As things stand at the moment, it is unlikely that Democrats will force a health care bill through Congress that includes the so-called public option (aka government’s bridgehead in the health care market). But they don’t need to do that in order to pave the roads for a future takeover of the health care sector by government. In fact, the French Cowboy thinks that any ‘reform’ bill will be a step towards that open-secret goal of having government control health care which Obama and his allies are pursuing. With staunch liberals in the White House and Congress in Democrats’ hands we won’t be seeing a bill focused on tort reform and increased competition among insurance companies. So, whatever Obama will sign in the end – and he will sign something – it won’t be good news compared to what should be done. However, it might become good news compared to what – under the circumstances – could’ve been done.

In order to minimise the damage that the inevitable health care bill will cause, Republicans need to stay sharp. For one thing, they need to realise – and explain to the public – that dropping the public option doesn’t guarantee that lawmakers won’t invent many ways in which to constrain private insurance companies’ business. “But that is good news! The insurance companies need to be reined in, otherwise they’ll exploit us!”, you say. Well, the French Cowboy says, That may be, in some cases, but keep in mind that with letting government try to correct the faults of private companies you are sending a thief to catch a thief. The alternative is to allow for more competition among insurers. Why not allow health insurance companies to compete beyond state lines, for instance? And why allow for an uneven playing field between job-based and not job-based coverage? When individuals are constrained to stay with a certain insurance company unless they change their employer, competition among insurers is seriously hampered.

Then there is the so-called individual mandate that will force everyone to buy health insurance. This is a blatantly offensive policy which amounts to spitting on the founding principle of individual liberty. If you don’t want to have health insurance than you darn sure shouldn’t be forced to purchase any. It’s your body, your life, your money. It’s also your risk. “But,” you say, “you are a burden to society if you are uninsured. If you have to go to the ER others will have to pay for you.” Not true, the French Cowboy says, Unless you are really too poor to pay your own visit to the ER, in which case you would also be entitled to Medicaid and, guess what, Medicaid is paid with taxpayer money as well. If all of those who are currently uninsured because they lack the money enroll into Medicaid, the ‘burden for society’ will increase, not decrease. Obama knows that fully well, which is why – in one way or another – he will have to milk those Americans who are better off. But spreading the wealth around is his political philosophy, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

But here’s the thing: the individual mandate alone can be the entry ticket for government to call the shots in the insurance sector. Millions of currently uninsured forced by law to buy insurance (with or without public subsidies) will be to health insurance companies what TARP was for the financial sector: a pact with the devil Obama administration. Who needs a public option if you can take over insurance businesses as if they were General Motors.

Republicans have to warn of such entanglements and win the argument in favour of tort reform, freedom of individual choices and healthy competition. And to all those who have an (understandable) aversion against insurance companies, let me tell you that there is only one thing worse than greedy suits chasing after money. It’s greedy suits cozying up with technocrats who believe in top-to-bottom government solutions.

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