Mission Creep

A Wall Street Journal editorial from Friday notes the problems with mandated insurance, particularly when it comes to health care in Massachusetts:

My husband retired from IBM about a decade ago, and as we aren’t old enough for Medicare we still buy our health insurance through the company. But IBM, with its typical courtesy, informed us recently that we will be fined by the state.

Why? Because Massachusetts requires every resident to have health insurance, and this year, without informing us directly, the state had changed the rules in a way that made our bare-bones policy no longer acceptable. Unless we ponied up for a pricier policy we neither need nor want—or enrolled in a government-sponsored insurance plan—we would have to pay $1,000 each year to the state.

And why exactly were they being fined by the state? Well, the answer sounds lot like some of the arguments that are currently being made by supporters of Obamacare…..except this was being championed by a Republican Governor:

The turning point was three years ago, when then-Republican Gov. Mitt Romney pushed through the state legislature a health-care plan that he promised would provide universal coverage while lifting from the middle-class the burden of having to pay for those who do not have insurance. His argument was that the uninsured drove up the cost of health care for everyone by seeking care at emergency rooms and then skipping out on their medical bills. Hospitals make up for those unpaid bills by charging everyone else more than they otherwise would.

The central plank of the Romney plan was a mandate that required everyone to buy health insurance or pay a fine for posing a risk to society by walking around without coverage. There would be subsidies for those who couldn’t afford insurance, and residents would be required to buy a minimum amount of health insurance, on the grounds that they might buy a policy that doesn’t cover the cost of their care and end up skipping out on their medical bills. “We insist that everybody who drives a car has insurance, and cars are a lot less expensive than people,” Mr. Romney told the Boston Globe in 2006.

Mr. Romney and Sen. Ted Kennedy publicly promised that the middle class—that is, people like us—would not be taxed and that our health-care costs would actually decrease if the plan became law.

Well, needless to say we see that mandated care in Massachusetts hasn’t exactly worked our swimmingly for middle class folks up there. The cost of health care continues to skyrocket, people are still not necessarily covered, and middle class tax payers are suffering for the broken promises of bureaucrats and politicians who told them time and again that they wouldn’t be subjected to a tax on health care and that health care costs would drop.

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Sound like anything coming out of Washington these days?

Anybody of sound mind can see what is coming if the current health care plan is enacted. I have been saying time and time again that the option of health care reform, in the minds of the Democratic establishment in Washington, has little to do with providing better care at lowers costs, and everything to do with the socialization of health care at the federal level. Mandating minimum levels of coverage, to a certain extent, will be the same thing. And there will be a continued mission creep of the federal mandate to ensure that people are steered toward the exact coverage that Washington bureaucrats want, or whatever coverage Congress mandates into law. As Jonathan Adler notes:

If the federal government adopts an individual mandate, Ms. Williams fears her experience could soon replay itself nationwide. She’s right to fear. Once there is an individual mandate, interest groups will flock to Washington seeking to have their preferred treatment or service incorporated into the requirements for acceptable health care plans. Over time, the requirements will grow, and the cost of health care plans for many Americans will increase as a result. Consequently, many individuals who have health care plans that fully meet their needs will suddenly find themselves “underinsured” — and taxed fined as a result.

I can happen here. And it will happen if Congressional Democrats get their way. The Mission Creep has been real in Massachusetts; it will repeat itself at the federal level. The Bureuacuracy needed to run this mess will be nightmarish. Middle class families are going to have to spend more money on health care, turning it over to one bureacuracy (federally-approved health care companies) or another (the Government).

Mandated care, as constructed, is pretty much the enemy of our basic free market economic principles…..and while only tangential to the health care argument, it should give fiscal conservatives a lot of pause when you consider Mitt Romney’s likely second try at the White House in 2012.


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