Monday, September 26, 2011

Armstrong on Health Insurance and Personal Responsibility

The 9/24/2011 edition of PajamasMedia published Ari Armstrong's OpEd, "Health Insurance and Personal Responsibility".

Armstrong discusses the question asked by Wolf Blitzer to candidate Ron Paul in a recent GOP debate on who should pay for the health care of "a healthy 30-year-old young man [who] has a good job, makes a good living" but deliberately decides not to carry health insurance.

Although Blitzer framed the question as a false alternative between "society" paying for his care vs. "letting him die", Armstrong digs more deeply into issues of personal responsibility. In essence, if someone is able to pay for his own health insurance but chooses not to and instead "goes bare" on the risk, he should be help responsible for the bill (even if it might require a payment plan over time).

Armstrong then makes an important point:
But what about somebody who develops expensive health problems and truly cannot afford to pay? In those cases, hospitals and voluntary charity organizations remain free to step in and cover some or all of the costs.

Blitzer talks about "society" letting someone die, but whom does he mean? Each individual is part of society, so isn't the real question, "What are YOU going to do about it?" Treating "society" as some super-entity above and beyond the individuals who compose it causes two problems. First, it gives individuals an excuse to do nothing by their own initiative; second, it encourages many to ignore the actual victims of politicians' forced wealth transfer schemes.
This is a critical observation. Too much of current politics mistakenly reifies "society" as something above and beyond the individuals that compose it. This makes it too easy for politicians to propose policies which sacrifice individuals to a nebulous "collective good". Our numerous current political and economic problems are the consequence of this error.

The only way out of this trap is to recognize the primacy of the individual as the proper unit of political thinking, and to recognize that the proper function of government is to protect individual rights. Fortunately, more and more Americans are become aware that this is the critical issue.

Finally, Armstrong notes the following:
The deeper problem, the real reason a healthy 30 year old grows tempted to forgo health insurance, is that politicians have made the costs of health care and insurance ludicrously expensive.

Through destructive tax policies, the federal government linked health insurance to employment and encouraged the use of "insurance" for routine, every-day costs rather than for true emergencies. As a consequence, consumers have almost no incentive to seek economical care, and a considerable portion of each health dollar goes to insurance paperwork rather than actual care.

Today's politicians have taken dramatic action to turn health insurance into a gigantic wealth transfer scheme. That, indeed, is the entire premise behind the ObamaCare "mandate"; people must be forced to buy insurance because its artificially high costs subsidize the care of others. Consider, for example, the recent mandate from Health and Human Services that forces the insured who don't need birth control to pay for the birth control of others.

If we dismantled the federal controls over health care and moved toward a free market, that would put patients back in control of their health care, help contain costs, make insurance affordable again, empower more people to manage their health care costs, and ease the burdens on voluntary charity.
Armstrong's analysis is spot-on. It's not too late to reverse course, repeal ObamaCare, and move in the direction of genuine free-market health care reforms.

(Read the full text of "Health Insurance and Personal Responsibility".)