Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The New Big Dig

The May 21, 2008 Wall Street Journal likens the Massachusetts health plan to the "Big Dig" -- i.e., the Boston highway construction project notorious for its inefficiency and cost overruns. Here are some excerpts:
Well, the returns are rolling in, and the critics look prescient. First, the plan isn't "universal" at all: About 350,000 more people are now insured in Massachusetts since the reform passed. Federal estimates put the prior number of uninsured at more than 657,000, so there was a reduction. But it was not secured through the market reforms that Governor Romney promised. Instead, Massachusetts also created a new state entitlement that is already trembling on the verge of bankruptcy inside of a year.

...The "new Big Dig" moniker refers to the legendary cost overruns when Boston rebuilt its traffic system. Now state legislators are pushing new schemes to offset RomneyCare's runaway expenses, including reductions in state payments to doctors and hospitals, enlarged business penalties, an increase in the state tobacco tax, and more restrictions on drug companies and insurers.

...In this respect paradoxically, we can be thankful that Massachusetts ignored the cost problems that doomed other recent liberal health insurance overhauls in California, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Illinois. The Bay State is showing everyone how not to reform health care.
Individual mandates violate an individual's right to contract with insurers and providers according to their mutual benefit. When the state presumes to override an individual's judgment as to what's best for his self-interest, it's no surprise that it results in bad economic outcomes and poor provision of medical services.