Pulpit Bulls

Policy, Politics, and What's In Between

The Invisible Hand in Health Care

Posted by Eric on June 2, 2009

From CQ, Jane Norman writes about the palpable discouragement of free market types with regard to coming health care reform:

“I have never seen the free-market proponents in a debate as discouraged as they are over health care,” Greg Scandlen, a health expert at the Heartland Institute, wrote on the group’s Web site. The bleak mood, he said, was compounded by the fact that “there was no unity. Everyone has his or her own pet peeve in health care and is uninterested in unifying around a theme.”

Interviewed later, Scandlen had few kind words for Republicans in Congress, who would seem to be natural allies. While they are often criticized for being too ideological, he said, they have displayed no ideology on health care, and not even much real interest. “They are virtually useless,” Scandlen said. “There are a few bright lights, but not many.”

This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. The American public wants health care reform and politicians are accountable to these people. Reducing moral hazard among the insured so that patients feel more financial risk isn’t going to deliver any votes.

What is surprising (or at least pretty stupid) is that these conservative groups really want to push Republicans to beat the free market drum. Imagine the repercussions if you increased the US health care system’s susceptibility to market pressures. Cuts to S-CHIP mean less care for kids. Eliminating preexisting condition clauses allow insurance companies to deny care to a greater number of sick people. Eliminating the employer tax exclusion for health insurance would lead a lot of employees to seek insurance on their own where they would feel the true brunt of health care costs. This is what free market health care looks like. And where does it lead? To a lot of people even angrier than they are now, in more precarious circumstances. Pretty soon these people will have had enough, and they will be demanding reform. If this ever happens you can bet we’d get reforms a whole lot more sweeping than what the Democrats are proposing now.

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