The following was originally written for Americans for Tax Reform, where I am an intern:
Perhaps the most frustratingly incoherent part of Obama speech Wednesday was his repeated portrayal of the market and government planning as just two possible, non-exhaustive, mutually-reinforcing “solutions” to the current health care “crisis”.
There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada’s — (applause) — where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everybody. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end employer-based systems and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own…. I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both these approaches.
Obama likes to present his plan as a sort of third way between government-run health care and the market, incorporating, as he said, “the best ideas of both parties together”. This is essentially nonsense. Our health care system cannot be made “more free market” and “more government-regulated” simultaneously.
The free market and government planning are exhaustive opposites. Every health care choice is either made freely by consumers selecting their most favored option, or it is chosen for them by government mandates. Under a market system, for example, consumers can either choose to buy health insurance through their employer or on the individual market. In a planned economy, by contrast, the government may order them to buy through their employer.
President Obama leaves little doubt as to which direction he will take our health care system:
Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those — especially the young and the healthy — who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers by giving them coverage.
And that’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. (Applause.) Likewise — likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers.
But we can’t have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.
Obama’s plan, at its heart, requires that consumers be deprived of their free choice, so that the government can micromanage insurance premiums based on arbitrary notions of “just cost distributions”. This is, at its heart, socialism.