However, a “single payer” system would lead to misery and death for many Americans. Such systems control health costs through rationing. Canadian breast cancer patients often wait months until the government approves their surgery and chemotherapy. Canadian cardiac patients often die while waiting for surgery, unless they can use political clout to “jump the queue” ahead of others (or travel to the U.S. for care.) Great Britain’s National Health Service has paid bonuses to primary care physicians who have reduced their referrals to hospital specialists, forcing doctors to choose between their patients or their government paychecks. Do Americans really want a system in which their doctors can’t or won’t work for their best interests?
Health insurance companies should neither seek nor accept a Faustian bargain that will ultimately destroy them. Instead, they should support free-market reforms that correct the problems caused by existing government controls. One example would be repealing “community rating” laws that force insurers to charge the same prices for all patients in a community regardless of their individual medical histories. Another would be repealing “mandated benefit” laws that force insurers to offer (and patients to purchase) unwanted benefits such as in vitro fertilization coverage. A third would be repealing laws that forbid patients from purchasing health insurance across state lines. Such reforms could reduce insurance costs over 50%, making health insurance available to millions who cannot currently afford it.
Whether health insurance companies realize it or not, they are on the verge of selling themselves to the Devil — and taking the rest of us down with them. Whether we let them is up to us.