Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2009 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan 5770

The public's best option: Less government, more choice

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "My guiding principle is and always has been that consumers do better when there is choice and competition." So said President Obama in his address to Congress on health care, making an argument for a government-run "public option" to sell health insurance that many Democrats have echoed.

In 34 states, Obama noted, three-fourths of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. "Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down." But add a public option "administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare," he said, and competition would revive.

No, it wouldn't.

A government-run health insurer would radically tilt the health-insurance playing field. It would amount to a new entitlement program, able to undercut the price of private insurance by squeezing hospitals and doctors, reimbursing them at below-market rates. "Just like Medicaid and Medicare," which also underpay medical providers, the public option would force hospitals and doctors to charge private insurers more. Those insurers, in turn, would be compelled to raise their premiums, eventually losing millions of customers to the government plan.

Obama and other Democrats insist that any public option would have to be self-supporting, properly balancing its premiums and risk and not expecting the government to cover its losses. Sound familiar? The same assurances were made about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business," the president insists now. As a US Senate candidate in 2003, he sang a different tune: "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program. . . . But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately." Has he changed his mind? Or only his talking points?

More competition among health insurers is a consummation devoutly to be wished. But there are far better ways to get there than a public option.

Here are three:

Tear down the barriers to buying health insurance across state lines. Under federal law, states are permitted to regulate "the business of insurance" as they see fit, and most of them have seen fit to allow the sale only of insurance policies licensed by their own state insurance commissions. As a consequence, there is no competitive national market for health insurance; there are 50 state markets instead, most of which are dominated by a handful of insurers. This, says Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute, is the "original sin" of health insurance regulation.

When it comes to almost any other product or service, Americans would find a ban on interstate commerce and competition intolerable: Imagine being told that you could buy a car or a computer only if it was manufactured in your state. Consumers in the market for a mortgage are free to do business with an out-of-state lender; those in the market for health insurance should be equally free to do business with an out-of-state insurer.

Repeal mandatory benefits that make health insurance needlessly expensive. Compounding the lack of interstate competition is the way states drive up the cost of health insurance by making certain types of coverage compulsory. Consumers and insurers should be free to work out for themselves just how comprehensive or limited a policy should be. But state mandates prevent such flexibility by requiring insurance companies to sell a fixed array of benefits that many customers may not want. Individuals seeking plain-vanilla health insurance — a policy that will cover them, say, in case of major surgery or catastrophic illness — may find themselves forced to pay for a policy that also covers acupuncture, in vitro fertilization, alcoholism therapy, and a dozen additional treatments.

When compulsion takes the place of competition, the result is invariably less choice at higher cost.

De-link health insurance from employment. Nothing distorts America's health insurance market like the misbegotten tax preference for employer-sponsored health insurance. Until that preference is removed, tens of millions of Americans will continue to rely on their employers' health plan instead of buying health insurance for themselves, they way they buy every other type of insurance. Fix the tax code, and no longer could insurance companies routinely bypass employees and deal only with their employers. Instead there would be intensive competition for individual customers — and the lower premiums such competition would yield.

Yes, Mr. President, consumers do benefit from choice and competition. The key to both is not more government regulation and control, but less.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles