Talk about personal responsibility is cheap. Legislating personal responsibility isn’t. Take the movement to require everyone to purchase government-approved health insurance.
If at first this seems like a reasonable requirement necessary to reduce cost shifting by those who do not pay their own fare, then step back and think again. The damage caused by such a mandate is far greater than the problem it purports to solve.
Passing a law won’t magically make everyone insured any more than laws against speeding cause everyone to drive carefully — and shaving a few MPH off your speed is a much milder behavior modification than involuntarily spending thousands of your hard-earned dollars on government’s wish list rather than your own.
Many states, including Colorado, require drivers to have automobile insurance; yet the number of uninsured drivers is estimated at 14 percent nationally and 16 percent in Colorado.
Analyzing the newest health “reform” bill by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Congressional Budget Office found that its individual purchase mandate would still leave 25 million uninsured — out of some 30 million that CBO says are currently uninsured on any given day.
From a practical standpoint, the requirement to purchase health insurance will start badly and grow even worse. That’s because the choice of what kind of insurance to purchase will no longer belong to consumers but to politicians and bureaucrats, relentlessly pressured by lobbyists to add to every conceivable screening or procedure in the nanny-state’s wish list to your mandatory policy.
Politicians who resist that pressure and defend your right to choose your own level of coverage will be smeared at election time by dishonest advertisements accusing them of opposing mammograms and maternity care.
Requiring health insurance to pay for preventive screenings is like mandating that auto insurance must pay for oil changes and new tires. Only in health care do we forget that insurance was designed to pay for unforeseen catastrophes, not for predictable events for which we should plan and budget.
These are the types of mandates that turn a practical, affordable policy into an unaffordable one. In Massachusetts, which implemented an individual mandate in 2007, the average family insurance policy now costs $13,788 a year — the most expensive in the nation.
But, true to form, liberals in Congress seem incapable of learning from others’ mistakes.
Worse still, the Senate bill’s $829 billion cost estimate doesn’t attempt to account for the total cost to Americans — only for the cost to government. Factor in the cost to businesses and families of buying government-approved health insurance and the total cost soars to $2 trillion, says Michael Cannon, health policy director at Cato Institute.
If Congress can order us to use our own money to buy goods or services that we might not otherwise purchase, what’s to stop it from ordering us to drive hybrid vehicles, install solar panels on our homes, or eat our vegetables?
So let’s say someone who still holds to the old-fashioned notion that America is “a free country” decides to spend her own money as she darn well pleases and buys health insurance that doesn’t meet government’s criteria. Then what?
According to a memo from the Joint Committee on Taxation, such independence would result in a $1,900 income tax penalty from the IRS. Refusal to pay the penalty would subject the taxpayer to a misdemeanor criminal charge carrying a fine of $25,000 and up to one year in jail.
What is so wrong with American health care that justifies this type of authoritarian government? And what does it say about Democrats who would jail those who spend their own money however they choose?
Contrary to President Obama’s oft-repeated disinformation, health care spending had nothing to do with the implosion of the financial markets. In fact, the biggest problems in health care and the most expensive problems in government emanate from government health care programs. Medicare, for example, is nearly bankrupt and carries a long-term deficit of $89 trillion.
Only in Washington is it conventional wisdom that the cure for big government’s errors is to make them bigger.
Mark Hillman is a Centennial Institute Fellow. He previously served as Colorado senate majority leader and state treasurer. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.