Today’s Colorado Springs Gazette published my op-ed, “Republican plans for health care reform similar to Obamacare.” (The print date is later than the online date of September 18).
I point out that the three core tenets of Obama’s plan — mandatory insurance, forcing insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions (and meet other political demands), and expanded subsidies — have all been endorsed by Republicans.
Meanwhile, the “public option” isn’t a central element of Obama’s plan, as the other controls alone effectively nationalize the insurance industry. (And, as John Lott suggests via Brian Schwartz, something like the “public option” already dominates the insurance industry.)
Read the entire op-ed. And share it with your Republican friends!
Below is the complete text:
Republican plans for health care reform similar to Obamacare
Democrats pretend that Republicans are just a bunch of obstructionists when it comes to health proposals. Meanwhile, Republicans debate minor aspects of Barack Obama’s plan such as whether it subsidizes illegal immigrants and abortions.
The reality is that every key element of Obama’s plan either came from Republicans or arose with Republican support.
Obama underplays this fact because it is an embarrassment to his self-defined legendary status. This is the man who told Congress, “I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” He wouldn’t have sounded as impressive had he admitted, “My plan cobbles together various Republican-endorsed policies.”
Republicans neglect their role in creating Obamacare because they like to pretend they support free markets and offer a real alternative to Democratic policies. More often than not, when Republicans are not “me tooing” the Democrats, they are taking the lead in expanding political controls of the economy.
The core of Obama’s plan is the mandate: he wants to force everyone to buy politically controlled insurance. But this has already been tried.
Mitt Romney, former Republican governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate, worked with Democrats to push through just such a plan. Obamacare is little more than warmed-over Romneycare.
What were the results? Last fall Paul Hsieh, a Colorado radiologist, wrote “Mandatory Health Insurance: Wrong for Massachusetts, Wrong for America.” He found “the plan has increased costs for individuals and the state, reduced revenues for doctors and hospitals,” and fallen short of universal coverage.
Last month the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon checked in on Romneycare. He found higher taxes, exploding costs for insurance premiums, longer waits to see specialists, and “the groundwork for government rationing.”
Obama wants to replicate this failed Republican experiment on a national scale.
Another key part of Obama’s plan is to force insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions. This is again part of Romneycare, but other Republican leaders also endorse the idea.
Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman wrote for the July 30 Denver Post that he wants politicians to “require health insurers to cover those with pre- existing conditions.” In his tepid response to Obama, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana also praised the idea.
Of course, forcing insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions incentivizes people to wait until they get sick to buy insurance, so the position amounts to an endorsement of the mandate, too.
What both Republicans and Democrats like to ignore is that politicians from both parties have created the problem of pre-existing conditions.
Tax distortions push people into non-portable, employer-paid insurance. Ever-changing controls outlaw some insurance options and make others impossible for insurers to offer.
Various federal and state controls undermine the competitiveness of insurance companies, making them largely unresponsive to the needs of consumers. And politicians price some out of the insurance market by forcing up premium costs with special-interest favoritism.
Rather than violate the right to contract for insurance, government should get back to the business of preventing fraud and enforcing contracts, preventing arbitrary denials of claims.
In addition to mandates and insurance controls, the third major aspect of Obama’s plan, expanded subsidies, also came from Republicans.
Obama told Congress, “For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need.” These “tax credits” in fact serve as outright handouts for some.
If Obama’s plan sounds familiar, it might be because you read the same proposal from Republican Sen. Jim DeMint. His “Health Care Freedom Plan” proposes the “tax credit” subsidies that Obama endorses.
True, most Republicans don’t support Obama’s “public option.” However, Obama seemed willing to deal away his public option in the spirit of faux compromise. Moreover, between the mandate and other controls, all insurance will be controlled by the federal government, anyway, so the public option isn’t the central element of Obama’s plans.
To their credit, some Republicans, including DeMint and Coffman, do have some good ideas. They support rolling back some insurance controls to make premiums more affordable and expanding Health Savings Accounts to let people buy insurance directly with pre-tax money. Tort reform is less important but still a useful idea.
Unfortunately, many Republicans seem deathly afraid to say what millions of Americans long to hear: that people have the right to live their own lives and pursue their values by their own judgment. That government’s proper role is to protect individual rights. That people should interact through voluntary exchange, not force.
When elected officials are able to articulate the message of liberty, and mean it, we might have something better on the table than different flavors of political controls.
Armstrong publishes FreeColorado.com. He and his wife buy high-deductible insurance and pay for routine care with a Health Savings Account.