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It's Not Health Care 'Reform'; It's Exploitation

Scratch a health care "reformer" and you're likely to find a health care exploiter. As ObamaCare's provisions and taxes begin and resistance builds through lawsuits and state-level measures, it's important to see the exploitative motives driving increased political control of your medical care. Health control advocates won't stop with ObamaCare (HR 3590). "Once we kick through this door, there'll be more legislation to follow," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Whether health control supporters demand that all policies include certain benefits or that everyone must buy government-approved insurance or something like "Medicare for all," the policies don't follow from the alleged justifications for them. But they do follow from one motive: charity at gunpoint. That is, forcing you to finance other people's medical care. This is exploitation.  It's about time freedom advocates reclaim this term often misused by the left, as so-called health care "reform" is a clear case of exploitation.

Mandated insurance benefits are one means of health care exploitation. For example, many states mandate that all small-group policies cover maternity care and comprehensive autism treatments. One of the ObamaCare mandates effectively bans limited-benefit plans. Surely some people want such coverage, but the plans available to them do not include it. But it's a non sequitur to mandate that all plans include such coverage. This forces everyone to pay higher premiums for coverage they may not want or need.

If this is just a matter of insuring against certain risks, supporters of mandated benefits should support only mandating the sale of supplemental insurance policies, or "riders" on existing policies. For example, insurers in a few states sell supplemental maternity insurance. Canadian companies offer critical illness insurance, which pays parents a lump sum should their children have a serious condition such as cystic fibrosis, Lyme disease, heart disease, and cancer. Given existing products like these, it's not hard to imagine a supplemental policy for expecting couples seeking to enhance their insurance coverage related to child birth and their child's health.

Then why are mandated benefits so popular, while mandated riders or allowing for interstate insurance competition is not?  Exploitation. It's not about access to a specific type of insurance, but about forcing you to pay for other people's medical care.

The demand for mandates would lessen if government didn't shield insurers from competition and the need to please customers. The tax code favors employer-provided insurance, which makes it very costly for patients to change insurance providers. States prohibit patients from buying better or more affordable insurance policies sold in other states. Lifting this ban would make insurance affordable for 12 million more Americans, and improve quality by increasing competition among insurers and states that regulate them.

While it's illegal to buy a policy sold in another state, ObamaCare ironically uses the Constitution's interstate commerce clause to force almost everyone to buy a heath plan. It's called the "individual responsibility requirement." See, nobody likes irresponsible uninsured free-riders who don't pay for their medical care. This shifts costs to us responsible insured people through higher premiums. So mandatory insurance is all about "individual responsibility," right?

Wrong. This "individual responsibility" argument is poppycock. The cost shift is tiny, at most "1.7% of private insurance premiums," concludes a report published by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Compare this to how much Medicaid and Medicare increase insurance premiums -- $1788 for a family of four, reports Bloomberg. And that's not counting taxes we pay to fund these fraud-laden programs.

Further, Medicare and Medicaid negate individual responsibility. As "entitlement programs," they institutionalize the idea that some people are not responsible for paying for their own medical care, "society" is.  Don't be shocked when someone uses the "individual responsibility" argument for mandatory insurance, but also asserts a contradictory claim -- that health care is a "right" or entitlement.

How mandatory insurance works in practice further reveals its exploitation. With mandatory insurance, politicians define what legal insurance is and is not. Mandatory insurance is a tax that makes you finance others' medical care: politicians ban your low-cost insurance plan and require you to buy a more expensive one. ObamaCare has not only outlawed limited benefit plans. At least four of ten employees' plans will be illegal by 2013. ObamaCare also threatens HSA-qualified insurance policies, which encourage prudent spending and genuine individual responsibility.

For some, ObamaCare does not go far enough. They want "Medicare for all" or to copy Canada's dysfunctional system. "No greedy profiteers or high administrative costs to short-change patients," proponents say. If Medicare and Canadian-style plans are so good, why not let them compete with others in a free market for insurance?  A free market can accommodate firms offering all kinds of health plans: for profit, non-profit, or co-ops. Like restaurants, they could be modeled on any country: "Is the family in the mood for a Canadian, Swiss, or German health plan this year?" The political strife would evaporate! No more fighting over which plan is best; patients and doctors could choose as they like.

So why don't rich influential guys like Michael Moore, Barack Obama, and Paul Krugman quit politics and start their own health insurance company? Because for authoritarians like them, it's not enough to offer the plan. They need to exploit us by having government compel doctors and patients to participate in the plan, or at least fund it. A free market does not allow such compulsion -- that's what makes it free.

To stop health care exploitation we must address the root issue: the nature of rights and the purpose of government. Health care is not a right. Rights are freedoms of action, not entitlements to what others produce. We each have a right to seek health care and support charities through voluntary trade. In a free market for health care, government would protect these rights, rather than violate them through mandatory charity and self-serving political controls.