Has the free market failed?

Andrew Sullivan posted this letter from a reader about problems with the private market for health insurance.

I’m one of the 40+ million Americas that the market has efficiently removed from health care rolls. I was laid off from a corporate job and make ends meet with freelance work while I job hunt in this rather difficult job market.

I bought a private policy — because COBRA was twice as expensive — a year or so ago from the company that held my employer-sponsored plan (rhymes with Clue Loss / Rue Field). I figured this would make continuity of prescriptions and care pretty straightforward, and instead found, when I went to the pharmacy, that those carry-over prescriptions were no longer covered, because my seasonal allergies were now a pre-existing condition. Yes, it’s true that leaving health care in private hands reduces political corruption, but there’s one thing that I’ve seen happen with long term political corruption: indictments. You don’t see that too much with corporate corruption, do you?

I see the point that there’s a problem, but this is an issue of distorted incentives. The government started the process by taxing income to the point where employer-subsidized health insurance became a rational perk. This has lingered to the current day. If insurance had remained an individual decision, would the market produce this result? Assuming the individual could still afford the premiums upon losing a job, a separate issue, it’s logical to assume that there would be no reason to change insurance plans when losing a job. The tax/regulatory structure created by generations of politicians produced a system weaker than it would otherwise be. Why should anyone believe that further government intervention would solve the problem better than government retreat?