The seven deadly sins tax
By Thomas Lindaman
There's a billboard on my route home from work showing a victim of Parkinson's Disease without health insurance. The caption makes reference to this fact and says the combination of no health insurance and the disease is a "deadly combination." (Just like Dr. Pepper and arsenic, though I'm not sure why you'd ruin the taste of arsenic by combining it with Dr. Pepper, but I digress.)
As you might expect, politicians are falling over themselves to be seen as someone with a viable way to insure every American. The U. S. Census Bureau reported last year that about 46.6 million Americans are without health care insurance in 2005, including 8.3 million children. When presented with the sobering numbers, even the most cold-hearted person (outside of the IRS) can see there might be something wrong, and when that happens, these days people look to government to address it.
The big question that no one is asking is why. Why would we trust the people who gave us the stunning success that is the bridge to nowhere in Alaska to run something so important as health insurance? For the politicians, it's easy. Taking out the number of uninsured children referenced above, there are 38.3 million potential votes that goes to the candidate who comes up with the best-sounding federal health insurance plan. It's almost like an essay contest: Write a Federal Health Insurance Coverage Proposal, and We'll Make You President!
Leading the charge on this are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. I've taken a look at their three plans and, more importantly, how much they'd cost us. Although they can't come up with any specifics (because their plans have to overcome that minor detail of being passed by Congress), the annual price tags for their largesse will cost Americans anywhere from $50 to $120 billion. That's like giving away federal subsidies to track Bigfoot. And if there already is one, I will apply for it and you will never hear from me again.
I've thought for a while on why so many people want to give up their autonomy and let Uncle Sam make health insurance decisions for us, but I couldn't come up with one. I did, however, come up with seven. Lust, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride, and Gluttony. No, it's not a new Washington law firm; it's the Seven Deadly Sins. Here's my proof.
Lust: Men wanting to pop Viagra like Pez and women wanting to be "Sexy Grandmas."
Greed: People wanting the best possible health care at the lowest price…
Sloth: … without having to do anything…
Gluttony: …and doing all of this while not having to sacrifice…
Wrath: …or else they'll get revenge somehow.
Pride: People wanting to look as good as possible for as long as they can…
Envy: …and being jealous of other people who look as good as possible for as long as they can.
In the private sector, there is a point at which a company breaks even. Once it goes past that point in the wrong direction, it becomes harder and harder for that company to do business. Then, that company has to make a decision: make changes to the way it does business, or go out of business. The government doesn't have that problem. When it goes beyond that break-even point, it simply…spends more. Doubt me? Check the national debt. Yet, since it will be providing a product or service, the government's plan will have to be bound by the laws of economics. Finally, a set of laws Congress can't break. That doesn't mean they won't try, mind you…
If that wasn't bad enough, the programs Democrats are proposing target people who can't afford health insurance. That's why they offer subsidies and tax breaks to them. And with the poor's long history of great financial acumen, that's not going to be a recipe for disaster, right? Not so fast. Let's say for the sake of argument that the people who take the federal insurance plan still can't afford it. Why, then the government will have to create bigger subsidies and more tax breaks. That'll solve the problem, right?
Not so much. As we've seen with Welfare, once the pot gets sweetened enough, more people will decide to opt out of working for their coverage and let government pay for it. This will create a bigger strain on the plan and the economy, thus bringing the government's plan closer to the break-even point. When enough people join the government plan, it will shoot past the break-even point. Then, government will be forced to either change the way it handles the plan (which probably won't happen because getting government to change is like getting Ted Kennedy sober) or it will print more money, thus weakening the dollar and our economy in the process. But, hey, at least we'll be able to get substandard care!
I have a way to reform health care and health insurance that is radical by today's standards, but would be a lot easier on everyone involved. It's called "pay as you go." For those of you not familiar with the concept, it works like this. You go to the doctor to get care, and you pay the doctor. No insurance cards needed. No arriving two hours before your appointment to fill out paperwork. Just show up, get the care, and pay the doctor. It's so simple, it might just work. And considering it did work long before we decided as a nation that we needed health insurance, it might just work again once we get the will to reenact it.
But for those of you still unconvinced that government-run health coverage is that bad, let me put it to you this way. One of the biggest complaints with the current health insurance system is that people who don't know a thing about medicine, like insurance providers, are making medical decisions. That would make Congress what exactly?