Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is not changing my opinion of the recent mandatory health insurance law with his editorial in today’s Opinion Journal. There are many reasons, as every argument contradicts at least one other argument within the piece, but I want to highlight a few of the stupider justifications. First, this:
Another 40% of the uninsured were earning enough to buy insurance but had chosen not to do so. Why? Because it is expensive, and because they know that if they become seriously ill, they will get free or subsidized treatment at the hospital. By law, emergency care cannot be withheld. Why pay for something you can get free?
Okay, so logic tells us that Gov. Romney’s equation makes sense. But why draw the conclusion that we should then force health insurance? Why not reform free care? It’s not the politically nice think to do, but if someone earns enough and is irresponsible, why should we be nice. If the uninsured becomes seriously ill, treat them. Then bill them for the portion of the expense that they can afford. Admittedly, that’s a very rough sketch of what would be a large reform, but I only spent thirty seconds coming up with the basic idea. Imagine what we could all do if we thought it out further.
Gov. Romney continues, proving that he’s more willing to wield government’s coercive power than to adhere to limited government principles. He may be the successor to President Bush. Consider:
Of course, while it may be free for them, everyone else ends up paying the bill, either in higher insurance premiums or taxes. The solution we came up with was to make private health insurance much more affordable. Insurance reforms now permit policies with higher deductibles, higher copayments, coinsurance, provider networks and fewer mandated benefits like in vitro fertilization–and our insurers have committed to offer products nearly 50% less expensive. With private insurance finally affordable, I proposed that everyone must either purchase a product of their choice or demonstrate that they can pay for their own health care. It’s a personal responsibility principle.
Working to get government out of health insurance is good. Mandating that everyone purchase insurance is not following a personal responsibility principle. Such a principle would imply that the person acts on his own to make a wise choice for himself. Imposing such a requirement is simply infantilizing him. He should do this, but we know he won’t if we let him choose, so we’re going to make him. Ladies and gentleman, government philosophy circa 2006. It only gets worse from here.
Gov. Romney does address the libertarian argument.
Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate. But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.
Government coercion isn’t libertarian, either, but I don’t expect Gov. Romney to understand that. Regardless, I’m a libertarian, and I’ve offered a solution to the free ride conundrum, however underdeveloped it is right now. I’m sure there are smarter libertarians who can give an answer that’s more fully formed. Gov. Romney should seek them out, unless he’s afraid of their limited government answer.
Another group of uninsured citizens in Massachusetts consisted of working people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health-care insurance. Here the answer is to provide a subsidy so they can purchase a private policy. The premium is based on ability to pay: One pays a higher amount, along a sliding scale, as one’s income is higher. The big question we faced, however, was where the money for the subsidy would come from. We didn’t want higher taxes; but we did have about $1 billion already in the system through a long-established uninsured-care fund that partially reimburses hospitals for free care. The fund is raised through an annual assessment on insurance providers and hospitals, plus contributions from the state and federal governments.
What part of that doesn’t involve receiving a free ride from the government? Please, enlighten me.
I could go on, but I’m going to smash my head into my keyboard to dull the pain. It’s okay, I have health insurance.