Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hsieh LTE on Mandatory Health Insurance

The April 10, 2008 Rocky Mountain News printed my LTE opposing mandatory health insurance:
Rocky off base on health care proposal

Contrary to the April 6 Rocky Mountain News editorial ("Health care reform for grown-ups"), Sen. Bob Hagedorn's proposed mandatory health insurance is the wrong prescription for Colorado. Massachusetts has already imposed a similar system of mandatory insurance for over a year, and it is failing badly. Like Hagedorn's proposal, Massachusetts requires everyone to purchase health insurance, with government subsidies for low-income residents. But rather than creating a health care utopia, the result has been the exact opposite - skyrocketing costs, worsened access, and lower quality health care.

The Massachusetts system violates the rights of individuals to spend their own health-care dollars according to their best judgment. Instead, individuals are forced to choose from plans approved by government bureaucrats. Special interest groups have loaded these plans with costly required benefits that many people might not otherwise voluntarily purchase, such as in vitro fertilization and chiropractor services. Although Colorado politicians promise not to impose similar expensive mandates, how long do we realistically expect this to remain true?

Due to the skyrocketing costs, the Boston Globe reports, the government will have to "cut payments to doctors and hospitals, reduce choices for patients, and possibly increase how much patients have to pay." Massachusetts is also asking the federal government to make up the shortfall of "hundreds of millions of dollars."

Instead of another massive government program, we should adopt free market reforms, such as eliminating insurance benefit mandates and allowing Colorado residents to purchase health insurance across state lines. These genuine reforms could reduce insurance costs between 20 percent and 50 percent for thousands of Coloradans, without compromising access or quality. The free market is the only moral and practical solution to our current health care crisis.

Paul Hsieh, M.D., is a practicing physician in the south Denver metro area and a co-founder of the Colorado group Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM).