Healthcare Reform Issues
It's clear our nation's health-care system needs a major overhaul. But current reform efforts would infringe on Americans' freedom of choice and privacy.
That's why if Americans want to maintain control over their personal health-care decisions and health privacy, they must reject a federal requirement for everybody to buy health insurance.
Instead, they should consider policies that encourage responsible ownership of insurance as well as a safety net for the poor.
All told, the important big-picture question is: Do we want to move in the direction of greater competition, choice, and lower costs? Or greater government control and rationing?
Some might think we can do both: have the government mandate health coverage and then manage competition. However, it is important to realize that, if history is any indication, a mandatory universal health-insurance system would end up costing much more than advocates claim. That in turn would lead to higher prices and less freedom of choice for everyone.
Consider these facts: When Medicare was debated in 1965 (the year it was signed into law), business and taxpayer groups were concerned that spending might grow out of control. Single-payer advocates assured them that seniors could easily be covered with only a small increase in workers’ payroll taxes. The federal government’s lead actuary in 1965 projected the hospital program (Medicare Part A) would grow to $9 billion by 1990. It ended up costing more than $66 billion that year. Just three years after Medicare was passed, a Tax Foundation study found that public spending on medical care had nearly doubled. Consequently, Medicare payroll taxes and taxes in general have increased over the years to pay for skyrocketing health-care costs. In 2008, Medicare cost more than $468 billion.
Before agreeing to a mandatory universal health-insurance system, citizens should consider carefully how it could impact everyone in the long run, both as taxpayers and as patients. They should consider how the single-payer Medicare program has affected (1) taxpayer-financed health-care costs, (2) out-of-pocket health-care costs, (3) life expectancy and poverty rates, (4) choice of insurance, choice of doctors and health-care providers, and (5) health privacy.
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(Summary updated November 2009)