The Only Reason to Put Government in Healthcare Is to Put Government in Healthcare.
A healthcare reform suggested by Sen. Kent Conrad (D, ND) sounds reasonable, but I’m not sure why it should be so limited:
The Conrad proposal is modeled after rural electricity, farming and telephone cooperatives that are owned and organized by members. The entities would negotiate rates with health-care providers and would have to meet the same licensing and regulatory requirements as private insurance companies, the senator said.
“I tried to come up with something that is not government-controlled, is a competitive delivery model, but nonprofit,” Conrad said in an interview. “It would be on a level playing field with everybody else with, with a different ownership structure.”
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the finance panel, said he likes the Conrad plan, and said Obama raised no objections when the issue surfaced at the Wednesday White House meeting. Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), the ranking Republican on the Senate health committee, the other panel with jurisdiction over reform legislation, said he is seeking more details. He said the co-op approach could “increase the level of competition, if it were done right.”
We’re over-thinking this. Sure, let such co-ops form. Let insurance companies develop ready-made products for them, if they like. More broadly, though, we should open up healthcare beyond employers (largely by repealing or adjusting ERISA) and allow any group that wishes to offer health coverage do so. Churches, charities, social groups, whomever — if it serves a group’s mission to help its members or others to procure health coverage, let them do so.
There’s no need to involve the government in medical services beyond a mild regulatory hand — unless, of course, expanding government is actually the first priority.