Take a Step Back to See the Socialization
Since she began targeting a national audience, losing the local flavor, reading Froma Harrop has become a chore that I’m less and less inclined to undertake, but she does still have a knack for highlighting the errors in the thoughts that she’s repeating, as is the case here:
Reforming health care should be both a liberal and conservative mission. Securing medical coverage for all Americans is the liberal part. The conservative part is containing the explosive rise in health-care spending, which fuels government deficits and hurts American business in the global marketplace.
The problem is that the monstrosity currently being billed as “health care reform” isn’t liberal merely in its motivation, but in the first premises of its strategy: regulate and socialize. Actually, let me stipulate that these are in fact the same premise, as Michael Cannon explained one National Review ago:
Although Romneycare included no insurance program explicitly run by the government, it gave Beacon Hill politicians so much power over the health care of Massachusetts residents that it might as well have. The individual and employer mandates, operating entirely within the private sector, imposed what amount to new tax burdens, gave government the power to regulate all aspects of health insurance and medical practice, and subjected residents’ access to medical care to political calculation. Moreover, the fruits of Romneycare have been exactly what you’d expect from a government program. Before reform, Massachusetts’s health-care sector was rigid and expensive, with some of the longest waiting times in the nation. Since reform, it has grown even more rigid and expensive — though the politicians have managed to hide more than half of its $2 billion cost. Waits are longer as well, though they hardly merit a mention compared with the more odious forms of rationing involved. …
Like any government health-care program, Romneycare has spurred its share of garden-variety “send a check to Uncle Sam” tax increases. Yet those taxes don’t account for even half of Romneycare’s costs. Individual and employer mandates are the taxes that politicians prefer when they don’t want you to realize they’re taxing you. As President Obama’s National Economic Council chairman, Larry Summers, wrote in 1989, employer mandates “are like public programs financed by benefit taxes. . . . There is no sense in which benefits become ‘free’ just because the government mandates that employers offer them to workers.” The same is true of an individual mandate: To the extent that government forces people to purchase something they do not value, it is a tax, even if the money never enters the treasury.
Thousands of pages of regulations don’t leave much room for competition and choice; indeed, they read much like a specific health insurer’s explanation of benefits. Public option or not, this healthcare “reform” is de facto socialization. That is why, despite all the repetition of the half-truth about keeping your coverage if you like it, the bill explicitly ends plans that don’t conform to its manifold regulations within five years and forbids any new customers before that time. Otherwise, Americans would flock to the plans that were grandfathered in.
With so many mandates, a healthcare “exchange” will be a bit like a choice between large and extralarge, with most customers making up the difference for those who can only pay for a small.