Leave decisions on health coverage to individuals

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Leave decisions on health coverage to individuals

by Ari Armstrong

The following article was originally published by The Peublo Chieftain on May 6, 2007.

Those unwilling to let you make your own health decisions want to force you to get health coverage of their choosing. If Colorado adopts the central plan of several proposals recently submitted to the Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform (the "208 Commission"), you will be penalized if you don't sign up for the health coverage that politicians and bureaucrats design for you.

Club 20 wants to "mandate basic health care for everyone." The proposal from the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce states: "Participation in a maintenance plan (for most predictable, treatable, and common illnesses and injuries) would be made mandatory..."

Absurdly, the suburban chamber's plan claims to incorporate "Free Market Principles." However, a free market means that people can act and associate voluntarily, free from force. When government forces you to purchase something, that's not a "free market;" it's central control.

Such mandates are immoral and impractical because they violate individual rights.

The first problem is enforcement. How will bureaucrats make sure that everyone gets the mandated insurance? The state will impose financial penalties, but this won't impact illegal immigrants and transients who seek medical care. Colorado mandates auto insurance for those who drive on government roads, but 15 percent of Colorado motorists are uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council.

Some see Massachusetts as a model, but that state's plan is mired in problems. According to an April 12 article from The Boston Globe, "To remove the threat of a public backlash, the state plans to exempt nearly 20 percent of uninsured adults from the state's new requirement that everyone have health insurance."

For the rest, mandated insurance forces those with lower health costs to subsidize those with higher costs, making it harder for younger people to save for their own health needs. This would make Colorado less hospitable to younger workers and attractive to those with high medical expenses.

Mandated insurance also covers many routine expenses that are more economically paid out of pocket. Excessive third-party payment undermines the relationship between doctors and their customers, weakens the incentive to find and offer the best value, drives up costs, and expands bureaucratic controls.

Club 20's proposal would create a "Colorado Health Commission" to enforce the program and provide "appropriate limitations" - i.e., rationing - on care.

Do you want your doctor to answer to you or to a bureaucrat? Do you want to wait in line like patients in Canada and England? Do you want to see some doctors who can't work under the new controls driven from the state or from their field?

Yes, costs of some medical services and insurance are too high. Why? Through decades of tax distortions, expanded government funding, and a myriad of controls on medical services and insurance, politicians have driven up the costs of health care.

Thankfully, one proposal explains why health costs have risen and what we can sensibly do about it, all while protecting our basic liberties. The proposal by Brian Schwartz, "FAIR: Free-Markets, Affordability & Individual Rights," advocates the repeal of various costly insurance mandates and an overhaul of Medicaid. While Schwartz aims at state reforms, he also describes many of the needed federal fixes.

Political interference in medicine has generated our current problems. While some now demand more mandates and central controls to "solve" the problems created by previous controls, those who value their liberty and their health will advocate individual rights in medicine.

Ari Armstrong is a senior fellow with the Independence Institute of Golden and edits FreeColorado. com. He and his wife recently obtained high-deductible individual health insurance in conjunction with a Health Savings Account.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com