Monday, October 19, 2009

Libertarians Have a Better Plan For Health Care Reform

If the president and the Democrat controlled Congress get their way, we may soon face the prospect of monumental changes in the way health care is delivered in this country. Several versions of so called health care reform have come out of the various committees in the House and Senate, and a group of politicians, all Democrats, is meeting in secret to meld these bills into one plan for consideration by the full Congress. The process has been labeled the health care debate, but debate is a poor description of what has actually occurred so far. Democrats have significant majorities in both houses of Congress, and of course they hold the Presidency. What little debate has occurred up until now has been between various factions of Democrats arguing over whether to force bad policy or really bad policy down the throats of the American people .   Attempts by Republicans to influence the shape of the legislation have been blocked in favor of a strictly Democratic agenda. The Democrats have tried to label the Republicans as obstructionist, calling them the party of NO. They claim that the Republicans don't want any reform, and that they just want to derail the Democratic plan.  
I believe that the Democrats are guilty of two major misrepresentations. The first is that they are trying to reform health care to rein in costs. This is not their motivation.  Their goal is to expand coverage, and to hell with the costs.  But this doesn't make a very good bumper sticker, especially in times of fiscal crisis.  They might lose votes if they admitted the real agenda.  Now on the surface of it, expanding coverage might be a noble goal, but they plan to do it by taking money out of the pockets of people who have health insurance to give free or subsidized coverage to those who don't.  They will take the money and/or reduce the benefits  of  the haves to give it to the have nots.  From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.  We've seen this movie before.  It doesn't have a happy ending.  The Communists tried it.  Socialists all over the globe are still trying it today.  Canada and Great Britain have health care systems to demonstrate what kind of results you can achieve with this redistribution of wealth.  The Democrats claim that their approach would save money.  This would be a worthwhile effort if this was true. The cost of health care has gone up much faster than the overall inflation rate, and costs have the potential to put a tremendous burden on the economy going forward. Medicare alone is a system on life support as our obligation to seniors for future care far outpaces our capacity to finance the promised benefits. There was a time when Republicans tried to act responsibly and address the huge imbalances in entitlement budgets. But Democrats demagogued the plans, telling seniors that," The Republicans are trying to take away your Social Security and Medicare."  Today the roles are reversed. Its the Republicans who are now trying to rally support among seniors to defeat Democrat health reform by spreading fear of Medicare cuts. I'm quite disappointed in this approach. I'm sure the Democrats are right about there being a huge amount of waste in Medicare.  That doesn't mean I think they have the cajones to tackle the problem with anything more than rhetoric.  And someday the grownups are going to have to do something to trim Medicare down to a program we can afford. When that day arrives, we're going to be deluged with YouTube clips of those same politicians speaking out against cutting Medicare during the current dispute. Exposing their hypocrisy will only rob them of the credibility they will need to be effective in reforming a badly flawed Medicare bureaucracy.  There aren't a lot of politicians covering themselves with glory in the arena of health care policy.  And if you don't believe that Medicare is rife with waste and maybe even fraud, then explain to me how the  Scooter Store can inundate the airwaves with commercials promising practically every senior a new Scooter or Power Chair with Medicare picking up the tab.           

Besides the cost cutting canard, the other major misrepresentation the Democrats make is that the Republicans have not offered a plan of their own.  This is not true at all, but it is true that the Republicans' proposals have received very little attention.  Even in the conservative media, the focus seems to be on how bad the Democrats' plan is with no real attention to the positive aspects of Republican ideas.  To be fair, there is no hope of enacting the Republican plan with the current political reality.  Stopping the Democratic plan is probably the best that can be achieved.  But more emphasis on a reasonable alternative to Nanny-Care might provide a persuasive argument in our favor.  The Republican plan emphasizes tort reform to lower costs.  It advocates turning over control of money that employers spend on health insurance to employees to spend as they see fit.  This introduces market incentives to save on expenses.  The Republican plan would lower barriers to purchasing insurance across state lines to broaden the competition between insurance companies and insurance plans.  Below you'll find an audio clip from the Cato Institute.  The stated mission of the Cato Institute is to increase the understanding of public policies based on the principles of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty, and peace.  So they are a libertarian think tank offering policy solutions that focus on avoiding the heavy hand of government.  The audio clip provides an assessment of the current status of the Democratic legislation in Congress, and a sampling of market oriented alternatives for purchasing health insurance and health care services.  I've said that the Republicans have a plan, but it is probably more accurate to say that the Republicans have adopted a plan based on the libertarian principles listed above in bold type.  In my opinion, Republicans betrayed their constituents and their principles in the last administration by becoming a party of big government, not limited government.  The only means by which they can redeem themselves in my mind is to return to the libertarian principles they used to stand for.  Health care policy would be a great way to start.  Listen to the clip below.  Its under ten minutes long.  See if you don't agree that a broader dissemination of these ideas among the voters of this country would be a powerful argument in this debate.


citizenslave said...

I'm not going to troll all of your articles as a habit, but let's not forget who some of the Republican's supporters were in the last administration for their expansions into the realms of 'big government'. Or do your comments here not imply a repudiation of your previous stances on TARP and other bailouts?