Alternatives to Health Insurance Mandates

In a relatively short post titled “Mandates vs. Free-Riders,” Health Care policy expert John Goodman does what very few Republican Party elected officials do – he explains the solution to an important current policy problem briefly and effectively.

Here are two questions:

Is a requirement for every individual to buy health insurance a good thing? Put aside the Constitutional question for a moment. The Obama Justice Department is also arguing that a mandate is needed to make health insurance work. Are they right?

The problem is covering the costs of medical care for those “freeloaders” who don’t pay for health insurance but wind up getting care anyway because we live in a compassionate society. That’s clearly unfair, and it leads to unpaid bills that wind up in creating higher costs for those who aren’t freeloading. Requiring the freeloaders to buy health insurance is put forward as a solution.

Many conservatives (and even the Heritage Foundation!) at one time saw this as a viable policy. Very few do now because, as they say during NFL games on TV, “after further review” by the referees, they realized the enormous Constitutional problem with that approach. Hey, no one’s perfect. We all live and learn.

(As an aside, Libertarians like to see themselves as possessing perfect knowledge when it comes to what’s Constitutional and what’s not, and they like to look down at those lowly conservatives who at times fail. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see any Libertarian who understands and defends the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.)

Back to health care – here’s a synopsis of Goodman’s solution for the “freeloaders” problem:

The government can make them pay a tax that is equal to the expected amount of free care they are likely to get, if they get sick. To prevent them from becoming free rider, the government could impose a tax on them equal to that amount.

Goodman sums up what our dingbat elected officials are supposed to arrive at but rarely do: “The ideal public policy is to formalize the government’s role and make it fair.” Here he does their work for them:

Instead of the hodge-podge of tax breaks and spending subsidies, give every individual a tax credit of, say, $2,500 to apply to health insurance. For a family of four, the refundable tax credit would be $8,000. Unclaimed credits would be available to safety net institutions to pay for care if the uninsured cannot afford to pay their own medical bills.

“All this,” Goodman writes, “can be done without any mandate and without telling people what specific health insurance benefits they have to buy.”

Have you heard ANY Republican ANYWHERE make that point loud and clear? If you have, you’ve heard a very rare thing indeed.

You can read Goodman’s entire article here.