What if a bunch of politicians tried to make themselves look extraordinarily clever and more compassionate than the rest of us by claiming that health care was “a right” and passing laws to provide medical services to folks who urgently needed them but didn’t have the means to pay?
What if those politicians contrived a way to force most of us to pay for those services, but outside the tax system?
What if those politicians didn’t disclose to us that we were generously providing needed medical services but instead told us the extra money we paid went to excessive corporate profits and unmerited CEO salaries?
What if they then claimed that patients were being denied the medical services we were paying for?
What if they insisted the only way to take care of folks who needed care but were unable to pay was for government to seize control of everyone’s health care and everyone’s health insurance?
Outrageous? You bet. But sadly, this is reality in America.
Health insurance used to cost much less because it was available only to people who were reasonably healthy and not in immediate need of expensive medical services. After all, it was insurance, which is generally understood to be a way to reduce the risk of unexpected future costs. Every reasonable person understands you can’t buy fire insurance for a house that’s already burning, or life insurance for someone who is terminally ill.
But then the progressive political movement began to prevail with the claim that health care was a right.
So how can that work? How can I have “a right” to receive valuable services without violating the rights of whoever government forces to fund those services?
Government programs were established to ensure the “right” to health care but were soon swamped by growing numbers of people who had been led to believe they should not have to pay for insurance or set aside part of their income and forgo current consumption in order to be prepared to pay medical costs. Contributions to charities that had once helped needy people with health care declined because government had assumed control.
Politicians like Barack Obama want credit for taking care of sick people who can’t afford medical care, for implementing a “right to health care,” but they don’t want to be blamed for raising taxes to cover the cost. So they had to develop alternative funding mechanisms.
One of those mechanisms was requiring health insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, even if they were in immediate need of expensive treatments. In the industry this is called “guaranteed issue.” When a health insurance company is required to insure someone who is already sick, it collects one monthly premium and then immediately pays out thousands, or tens of thousands for medical services. To avoid bankruptcy the company must charge all its customers more - a lot more.
To a great extent guaranteed issue is already a reality. A 1996 federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), requires guaranteed issue for employee groups, and prohibits charging extra premiums for employees who have pre-existing conditions. Several states also require insurance companies to comply with guaranteed issue for individual policies.
The recent rapid rise in the cost of health insurance over the past decade coincides with implementation of guaranteed issue requirements.
An additional consequence of guaranteed issue is the incentive for people to delay paying for insurance until they get sick because they can plunk down the first month’s premium to become “covered.” Again, to remain solvent insurance companies must raise premiums even more, which drives even more healthy customers out, which results in even more premium increases.
The inevitable conclusion of this cycle will be the end of private health insurance.
With its requirement that every person must purchase a government approved health plan the 2,500 page ObamaCare bill is the progressive movement’s grudging acknowledgment that their “right to health care” is an impossibility, and the consequence of their laws and regulations is higher and higher health insurance costs born by fewer and fewer people still able to afford it. ObamaCare screams the immutable truth that there can be no right to receive value without violating the rights of those against whom force is applied to pay for it.
What should we expect from political leaders now that the right to health care has been swept into the sinkhole of failed progressive ideas?
- An honest politician would openly admit there’s no free lunch, and requiring the insurance company to accept someone who is already sick isn’t about purging greed.
- An honest politician would admit guaranteed issue is simply a political scheme to transfer the cost of the sick person’s medical care to the rest of the company’s customers.
- An honest politician would admit guaranteed issue makes the insurance company the de facto tax collector for a de facto social program created by government decree.
- An honest politician would admit that guaranteed issue laws have caused the continuous premium increases, and the rising number of uninsured.
An genuine leader would admit that when politicians try to meet every need with clever legislation, the advertised benefits are more than offset by undisclosed negative consequences.
Of course those admissions would redirect The People’s anger from insurance companies to the politicians who enacted guaranteed issue laws, took credit for generously helping people who were sick, then lied about the cost.
A real leader would encourage Americans, the most generous and innovative people in human history, to voluntarily help, and to develop financial mechanisms to help those who could not qualify for insurance. If the insurance industry were not so heavily regulated it could be more innovative.
There are plenty of examples of high quality health care being provided at little or no charge to patients. One is the Shriners Hospitals for Children. They accept children who need horrendously expensive treatments at no charge. Here’s a quote from their website:
Children up to the age of 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate are eligible for admission and receive all care in a family-centered environment at no financial obligation to patients or families.
Liberty does work. There’s no reason we The People can’t take care of our own without the imposition of command-and-control governmental systems that try to hide the costs and consequences.