Health and Other People’s Money

As the health care debate heats up in Congress, in the media, and on the campaign trail, proposals to fix America’s health care system have poured in from all directions. Everyone talks the language of good health care, market mechanisms, and personal responsibility. But, in my judgment, one thing is missing from almost all of the proposals: With one major exception, the proposals under serious debate retain the broken framework that assumes that others (employers and the government) should be responsible for paying for individuals’ health care. Some ideas offer various incentives for people to buy insurance on their own but all assume that hardly anyone will pay their own medical bills.

To me, honestly, the identity of the payer matters only a little. For many people, a health care plan your job forces on you — which is what the overwhelming majority of full-time workers in the U.S. have — is not that much different than one the government forces on you. At the moment, our entire health care system involves spending other people’s money.

Although I hate, hate, hate the idea, it’s difficult to argue that the single payer system favored by most of the American far Left would restrict individual choice much more than the current system. What we really need is a health care system that truly puts individuals in charge of their own health care by placing the responsibility for adults’ health insurance firmly on the person who uses it and nobody else. In a free country, such a system would, of course, include some employer provided health insurance (just as our current system for owning cars includes some employer-provided cars) but, at minimum, it should provide a perfectly level playing field for individuals to pick between employer-provided and non-employer provided health insurance.

No matter how “free market” it looks on paper, a system that forces people into employer or government programs will inevitably end up reducing individual freedom.