Tuesday, December 06, 2011

"The essence of ObamaCare"

Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann has criticized both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich for supporting the "essence of ObamaCare."

She's right.

Romney's web site says that he would "help control health care costs" and "ensure that individuals with pre-existing conditions who are continuously covered for a specified period may not be denied coverage." But we don't need government to do either of these things. It's in following this flawed line of thinking about government activism in the marketplace that we wind up with things like ObamaCare.

Gingrich's web site says he wants to reinforce "laws which prohibit insurers from cancelling or charging discriminatory rate increases to those who become sick while insured." But we don't need government to step in and force insurers to stop doing something that their contracts allow them to do.

And that is the most important point.

Most people don't read their insurance contracts because they believe that government regulation is there to protect them. You don't have to talk to too many people to figure out this is not the case. You probably don't sit around all day trying to manipulate government regulations to get the most value from your insurance contracts. But your health insurer does. Those companies have to cut every available corner in the interests of self-preservation. And that's because government regulation would otherwise be used against them to curry favor, build power and buy votes. They were forced to start playing the game, but they have become expert at it. They are banking on the likelihood that you are no expert.

The best thing for government to do in health care transactions is to stop creating this adversarial relationship between insurers and their customers and get out of the way. If that policy were our default position, then helping people with temporary or even permanent financial needs relating to health care would be much cheaper for everyone. We would then have more insurance companies and greater consumer choices and all the societal benefits that come along with market competition.

Michelle Bachmann's web site is light on specifics about health care. With Herman Cain out of the race, she is smart to go after Romney and Gingrich on this issue. She should take the next step and show that she understands what must be done beyond repealing ObamaCare.