Sen. Bingaman: Flaws Need to be Addressed in the US Health System

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the only member of the Senate who will have a seat on both committees that are dealing with President Obama’s health care reform plan (Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), had an article in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal in which he laid out what he sees as some of the problems of our current health care system and solutions that he and his Democratic allies in Washington would recommend. So, what of the Bingaman plan? I’ll cite passages and analyze below:
1) “Health care costs are out of control because our system rewards more care, not better care.” Sure, resources in our current system are not allocated in an optimal manner, but Hayek pointed out the information problem more than 60 years ago. Will government do a better job at allocating resources than our current system under which more than 50 percent of health care spending is already done by the government?
2) “Uninsured rates are high, especially in New Mexico.” So, how about reducing mandates or allowing consumers to purchase care across state lines?
3) “We must clearly define what a basic insurance plan must cover. We must also end the practice of insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.” I’m not sure where Bingaman gets off telling the rest of us what kind of health insurance options we should be able to choose from, but that mentality seems to pervade Washington and has for years. If I’m a college kid who wants just a catastrophic policy, is that “acceptable?” How about health savings accounts? Also, “guaranteed issue” will dramatically increase prices.
4) “Part of reform is making sure younger and healthier people are buying coverage.” Of course, guaranteed issue will force these younger, healthier people to subsidize those who take less good care of themselves and are older. How do you force these people into the system and is it really fair?
5) “The bill we send to Congress should shift us from a system that emphasizes ‘sick care’ to one that emphasizes prevention.” Of course this is a good idea. Perhaps if we deregulated the system so doctors and patients could contract with each other as one doctor tried in New York, we could achieve some of these laudable goals, but with insurance companies playing such an outsized role, this is not going to happen under any of the plans now under consideration.
6) Bingaman then argues for “Evidence-Based Medicine” but Twila Brase has demolished the case for that particular form of social control under which doctors are nothing more than assembly-line workers taking orders from the state.
7) Lastly, Bingaman argues that we need a “public option” to compete with private health insurance. This simply means that we will move quickly to fully socialized medicine over time. After all, government, subsidized with taxpayer dollars, does not “compete” on an even playing field with industry. Like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-subsidized option has many advantages and will ultimately “crowd out” the competition.

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