Monday, March 22, 2010

Reasons to be pissed about the health insurance bill

The health insurance bill passed, and it's one more triumph of the federal government over individual rights. All statists, rejoice! You've managed to succeed in having Big Brother intrude into one more aspect of your life. I, for one, am not happy about it, not only because I don't like living under the watchful eye of Big Brother, but also because I know that American health care used to be run in a very different way.

The government originally got involved in the health insurance industry in the 1920's, because health insurance was originally too inexpensive. That's right: too inexpensive. At the time, "fraternal societies," of which one-fourth of Americans were a part, contracted with individual doctors to provide health coverage for lodge members. This was such a good deal for the lodge members that lodge members only paid $2 for an entire year's worth of coverage. This is while non-lodge members paid $2 per visit to a doctor.

Well, that didn't last too long. The American Medical Association lobbied Congress to make it so that in order for a doctor to practice medicine in a state the doctor had to be licensed by the AMA. Congress agreed, and that was the end of the fraternal lodge insurance practice. The AMA made sure that its members did not contract with any more lodges. After all, the medical profession had its image and profits to protect.

The government continued to interject itself into the health care market and to screw it up. Licensing requirements expanded. Insurance companies could no longer compete across state lines. Tax exemptions for employer-sponsored health insurance were introduced during World War II as a way to get around wage restrictions. Medicare was introduced (which despite rallying cries to the contrary, is not doing well.) Congress even carved out an antitrust exemption for health insurance companies. If there were ever a case against a government-created monopoly, it may be health insurance.

As we can see, government intervention has taken us from inexpensive health care to health care that costs 1/6 of our GDP and is increasing in cost at four times the rate of inflation. Of course, the option of repealing the laws that brought us to this place is never brought up. No, government expansion is only brought up. But government expansion is not the solution. Government is not a creative force. For its very existence, it must take from private industry. Government expansion did not get us out of the Great Depression, and it won't get us out of this.

All this isn't even to mention the fact that the bill is an economic disaster. It does not decrease costs. It increases costs. The CBO has already estimated that it will increase costs for the individual market by 10 - 13%. Each person in the individual market will also have to spend on average $5,800 for an individual plan, and $15,200 for a family plan. Also, despite Obama's proclamations that this plan will save $118 billion over ten years, when Medicare is included the entire bill winds up costing over $600 billion over ten years. That's right. All these claims of cut costs are just based on accounting tricks.

I, however, think the situation is even worse than they're claiming. The Washington Post says that 19 million people will receive subsidies of $6,000 to help pay for their plans. 19 million * $6,000 = $1.14 trillion over ten years. That's right: trillion. This is simple math, but for some reason this number is never mentioned. I think that much like with Bush's estimated costs for the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003 and the Iraq war, we're just being told numbers on the low side to make things more palatable to us. Once the smoke clears, that's when we get the real numbers. ...Personally, I hope this bill covers treatments for a hemorraging national debt.

Of course, this doesn't even account for the potential government intrusion into our privacy. This bill nearly doubles the IRS's budget. Why would the IRS's budget nearly get doubled as a result of this if the government didn't have plans to look more deeply into our personal lives, and to keep more detailed records on us? Not to mention that the House version of the bill allowed for the "real-time (or near real time) determination of an individual’s financial responsibility at the point of service" (aka looking into your bank account) and for "enabl[ing], where feasible, near real-time adjudication of claims" (aka taking money from your bank account if deemed necessary.) I have no reason to believe that language is not in the final bill.

This bill is a mess. I'm glad that people are angry, but we need to get even angrier. We need to support states in their efforts to nullify this law. Thirty seven states have already said they intend to do just that. If we can get states to once again be bulwarks against the federal government, then we've succeeded, even if for a while we have to endure the government looking into our records and telling us to turn our heads and cough.



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