PJ Media

The Federal Health Care Muggers

The Democrats’ agenda of “universal health care” is in deep trouble, as more Americans (including many “Blue Dog” congressional Democrats) are growing increasingly uneasy about the costs.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the proposed House of Representatives plan could cost over $1 trillion dollars, rather than saving money. A similar plan in place in Massachusetts since 2006 has led to skyrocketing costs, long waits for care, and higher taxes, without actually providing “universal” coverage.

But in addition to this economic flaw, there’s also a more fundamental danger to the congressional plan. This plan would violate individual rights on a massive scale by imposing new mandates on individuals, businesses, and insurers, forcing Americans to cede control over their health care to the government.

Ironically, this will be done in the name of guaranteeing an alleged “right” to health care. But President Obama’s claims notwithstanding, there is no such thing as a “right” to health care. Rights are freedoms of action (such as the right to free speech), not automatic claims to goods or services that must be produced by another. Attempting to guarantee an alleged “right” to health care must necessarily violate actual rights.

The proposed individual mandate violates the rights of patients to contract with insurers in a free market on terms they find mutually acceptable. When insurance is mandatory, the government must necessarily specify what constitutes an acceptable policy. Mandatory insurance thus becomes a magnet for special interest groups seeking to have their own pet benefits included in the required package.

Massachusetts residents must purchase benefits that they may neither need nor want, such as in-vitro fertilization, lead poisoning treatment, and chiropractor services. An individual insurance mandate forces people to spend their own money on terms dictated by bureaucrats and lobbyists, rather than based on their own rational judgment of their best interests.

The proposed employer mandate violates the rights of businessmen to contract freely with their workers. Employers create jobs, and consequently have the moral right to decide what wages and benefits to offer to prospective employees, who in turn may then accept or reject such offers as they see fit. Forcing employers to provide health insurance violates that right and imposes a heavy economic burden on the very people who create jobs and prosperity — the last thing we need during our current depression.

Finally, the proposed new mandates on insurers violates their rights by preventing them from offering current individual insurance plans to new customers, even if customers wish to purchase them. Instead, the government will dictate what plans they must offer and at what prices — turning them into little more than heavily-regulated subcontractors for the government, akin to public utilities or the postal service.

The central planning approach to health care is doomed to fail, as it already has in Massachusetts, where insurance costs have risen twice as fast as the national average. The Massachusetts system is kept afloat only through hundreds of millions of dollars in annual federal waivers and subsidies — the taxpayers of the other 49 states.

The next ominous step for Massachusetts is the recent state commission proposal to control costs by paying doctors and hospitals a fixed annual fee for taking care of each patient. If a patient needs more care than his allotment, then the doctor and hospital absorb the cost. If a hospital can skimp on treatments, then it keeps the money saved.

Imagine you got sick but were near the end of your annual allotment. Could you trust your doctor to give you objective advice if he would incur a financial penalty for recommending a more expensive surgery over less-expensive medications? Could you rely on him to act in your best interests?

From this point, it’s a small step to the rationing that patients in Canada and Great Britain routinely endure when they wait months for their government-approved MRI scans or chemotherapy. This is the dead end of all forms of “universal health care.”

Whenever the government attempts to guarantee a service such as health care it must also control it. Under the proposed congressional plan, Washington bureaucrats won’t just take our money in the form of higher taxes — they’ll also take control of our health care.

At least a simple mugger offers you the choice of “your money or your life.” The new health care muggers in Washington will deprive you of both.