Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Brian Schwartz on Free Market Health Care

The September 24, 2007 Boulder Daily Camera printed the following LTE by Brian Schwartz:
We do not have free-market care

"If the market alone could supply the answer, 47 million Americans would not lack health insurance," stated a Boston Globe editorial supporting of Hillary's big-government plan (Sept. 21). This implication that America has free-market medical care is the huge deception behind government's hostile take-over of medicine. Our tax dollars already account for almost half of all medical spending. That's no free market.

Neither is a tax code that coddles insurance companies. It deeply discounts employer-paid insurance, chaining you to your employers costly non-portable plans. As a captive customer, insurers can afford to mistreat you — changing insurers requires changing jobs.

Tax-discounted insurance also encourages you to buy more comprehensive insurance than you probably need, hence penalizing saving for future medical expenses. With prepaid health care posing as "insurance," we consume medical care like a business traveler dining on the company's expense account: Since someone else pays the bill, patients need not shop around, so providers don't compete on price.

You can also thank government meddling for mandated-benefits laws, which criminalize the purchase of affordable insurance. This is like banning cars that lack features of a Lexus, and calling for more government controls because people cannot afford cars.

Instead of imposing more government meddling, legislators should restore free markets. First repeal the insurance tax exemption and lower taxes commensurately. If that's not feasible, extend the tax exemption to all medical expenses and insurance by allowing anyone to open a tax-deductible Health Savings Account. The ability to purchase insurance with untaxed HSA deposits would free us from employer-based plans. The Legislature should also repeal mandates and support the Health Care Choice Act, which would allow us to buy insurance that meets less damaging regulations of other states.

Paraphrasing Colorado activist Robert LeFevre, government-controls are a "disease masquerading as its own cure."