Western Slope should reject Club 20's health proposal
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on April 16, 2007.
Club 20's proposal to the "208" Commission for Health Care Reform (Colorado.gov/208commission) calls for more political control over our lives. While Club 20 pretends to speak as the "Voice of the Western Slope," the group has betrayed the Western values of independence and liberty.
Club 20 explicitly bases its plan partly on that of Massachusetts, and its proposal mirrors an idea promoted by Denver's far-left Bell Policy Center. That gives you some idea of where Club 20 is coming from these days.
"The fundamental basis of our proposal is to mandate basic health care for everyone," Club 20's proposal states.
Let's stop right there. The proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights. We have the right to control our own lives, consonant with the equal rights of others, and to join in voluntary associations and contracts. The government's role is to prevent the initiation of force, stop fraud, and enforce contracts.
Club 20 calls for the blatant violation of people's rights, the use of political force to control us. If we don't have the right to make our own basic medical decisions, free from government mandates, then we don't have any rights at all, but merely permissions.
It is not the state's proper concern to force us to get "basic health care" as defined by politicians and bureaucrats. Indeed, existing problems in medicine are the creation of political interference. Through tax distortions the federal government promoted high-cost, non-portable employer-pay insurance, and both federal and state governments subjected medical services and insurance to a host of costly controls. We'd call the existing system of government mandates on medicine Byzantine, but that might be an insult to the Byzantines.
The problem is government meddling in medicine, the use of political force to violate individual rights. So, naturally, Club 20 proposes more -- government meddling.
Club 20's proposal continues, "This mandate will require an enforcement mechanism to ensure full participation in Tier 1 coverage. This mechanism could be modeled after the mandates and sanctions within the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act."
Of course there must be an "enforcement mechanism." According to an article from Business Week, this "mechanism" in Massachusetts is that "individuals who don't have insurance will be subject to a penalty" of several thousand dollars per year. And there's always jail for those who choose not to be subject to Club 20's "enforcement mechanism."
Even though Club 20 wants to mandate medicine "for everyone," not even an "enforcement mechanism" can achieve this. Club 20 rightly complains about "mandated access to the Emergency Room," but many who most rely on "free" ER service are the very people least likely to fall into Club 20's schemes -- transients, illegal immigrants, the homeless, etc.
In his 2006 paper, "No Miracle in Massachusetts," the Cato Institute's Michael Tanner writes that the hope to cover nearly all of that state's uninsured "appears to be wishful thinking." Tanner notes that, even though auto insurance is also mandated there, "roughly 7 percent of all Massachusetts drivers remain uninsured."
Tanner also points out that mandated health care is not similar to mandated auto insurance: "If one does not like the regulations... one can choose not to drive. A health insurance mandate would not give people such a choice." The issues of government-run roads and mandated auto insurance are beyond the scope of this article, but we will point out that roads are not an appropriate model for medicine.
Tanner also notes that the Massachusetts mandate leads to more government controls and bureaucracies. This is evident by Club 20's proposal, which states: "Equally important as the access for everyone to basic preventive health care are appropriate limitations on that care. Whether one chooses to call it 'rationing' or 'limiting benefits' can be debated..."
And who is going to conduct this rationing? Club 20 wishes to create a "Colorado Health Commission." These Commissars of our health will administer the "enforcement mechanism" and decide what services our confiscated dollars may purchase.
As if this all weren't Orwellian enough already, Club 20 also wants to make sure that all of our medical records are part of the state system: "[W]e propose that all payers and providers of Tier 1 coverage be required [i.e., forced] to participate in an integrated end-to-end system of electronic administration that incorporates enrollment records, patient treatment records, payment records and beyond."
If you want to learn about how government meddling increased the costs and reduced the quality of medical services and insurance, and how we can sensibly start to reform medical policy, read Brian Schwartz's proposal to the Commission, "FAIR: Free-Markets, Affordability & Individual Rights." (Your junior author shared the results of some of his research with Schwartz for the proposal.)
If you value your liberty and your health, tell Club 20 to take a hike.