Many people believe that President Obama is not to blame for the health insurance mess we’re in. In some respects, that’s true. The President is responsible for a lot of the current health insurance mess we’re in, but the macro picture of health insurance today started waaaay back after WWII. And yes, Virginia, most of it was caused by government intervention. It’s important for Americans to understand the history behind the forces that influence our healthcare system today, so that problems can be fixed at their source, and responsibility can be laid squarely at the feet of those who caused them — governments past and present.
As surprising as it sounds, most Americans never had real health insurance to begin with — and were not allowed to by law.
At first, the title of Paul Hsieh’s latest Forbes article, “The Only Obamacare Fix Is For Obama To Legalize Real Health Insurance,” irritated me. Was he calling for more government involvement? Then I realized as I read through the article that my ignorance is to blame for my misunderstanding. I don’t think I’m alone. Most Americans don’t fully grasp the history of our healthcare’s development. It is largely a product of government involvement in market economics.
Obama could be a hero today, instead of sinking daily more deeply into the healthcare situation he exacerbated. While Americans are suffering, losing their doctors and their coverage right and left, the President’s answer is more government control, more delays, more “fixes.” What could he do to be a hero?
The heroic things to do could help free American market forces to correct the decades old government interventions that caused healthcare insurance issues in the first place. According to Hsieh, Mr. Obama could do at least three things, none of which are new ideas; they’ve simply not been embraced. Namely:
- Eliminate the tax disparity between employer-provided health insurance and individually-purchased health insurance.
- Eliminate all mandated benefits. Insurers should be free to offer to willing consumers inexpensive policies covering only catastrophic accidents and illnesses.
- Allow insurers to sell policies across state lines.
What most people consider health “insurance” is actually genuine insurance combined with inefficient pre-paid medical care. Contrast that with standard car or homeowners insurance policies. Those plans protect us against unlikely but expensive events, such as a bad car accident or a house fire. But we don’t use car insurance to cover routine predictable expenses such as oil changes.
So, yes. Our health insurance system bears improving, especially since it was created by a patchwork of unfortunate government interventions. The answer is not more government, but less. There exist viable, reasoned and intelligent solutions. It’s up to Americans to demand them.
More of Paul Hsieh’s articles can be found on Forbes.com.