Monday, September 17, 2007

let there be health care for all.

"A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the enthusiastic support of Paul."

So the cat is out of the bag, officially. Senator Clinton unveiled her "Mandatory Health Care" proposal, once again proving that you can be a U.S. senator and not have the faintest clue about economics.

Some of the highlights:

--She'll offer federal subsidies for those who can't afford their own health insurance.

--She'll require insurers to insure anyone who applies for coverage.

--She'll bar insurers from charging higher premiums for people who have increased health care costs.

Now, any freshman economics major at Harvard can point out the flaws in that plan, so I have to surmise that Clinton either has nobody on staff who reads Wall Street Journal on occasion, or she's fully aware of the implications of her plan and decided to push it anyway. (That makes her either really daft or really deceitful...take your pick.)

"Federal subsidies" is a Thesaurus term for "everybody's wallets". Subsidies don't materialize out of thin air, they have to be taken from the paychecks of working folks. That means everybody with a paycheck gets to subsidize the health insurance of everybody without a paycheck, thereby removing a major incentive to actually get up in the morning and earn a paycheck.

The biggie, however, is the thing about requiring insurers to take anyone who applies, and then preventing them from charging higher premiums for higher health care costs.

Those costs don't just magically evaporate, of course. If the health insurance company has to take the 50-year-old smoker with Stage 1 lung cancer, and they're prevented from recouping some of the costs that person is sure to rack up in the next few years, then there are two possible options for the insurance. They can either fold altogether, because they're unwilling or unable to eat the costs involved in charging a lung cancer patient the exact same premium as they do a marathon runner who's never sick, or they can avoid violating the law by defraying the cost of the cancer patient's treatment. The only way to do that is to raise insurance premiums for everyone across the board, so everyone still pays the same amount. That brings us back to the previous point, as this would in effect require everyone to pay for everyone else's health care. I cannot for the life of me figure out how forcing me to pay for the consequences of someone else's bad lifestyle choices is "fair".

That plan would almost instantly decrease the availability of health care, make its administration subject to a new and exciting federal bureaucracy (how would you like to make your doctor's visit just like trips to the DMV?), increase the cost of health care to everyone except those who can't (or won't) work, and completely remove all incentives for moderation of consumption when it comes to health care.

You can't wish, vote, or legislate yourself free money. Someone has to pick up the tab in the end, and that someone is invariably the demographic who has something to loot--namely the folks who pull in a paycheck every week or two. The rest of the population will have no trouble voting themselves "free" health care.

Me, I'd rather have a crown or root canal treatment available at $600, than no crown or root canal treatment available at $0. Then again, I have at least a faint grasp on economics, something that seems to be a disqualifying property for a Congressperson.

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