The big lie behind politician-controlled medicine

The Denver Post printed the following letter of mine last week (on-line version):

Re: “Who has your health at heart?” May 22 guest commentary.

AFL-CIO executives John Sweeney and Mike Cerbo perpetuate the big lie behind politician-controlled medicine: that the free market is not working and that costs have been spiraling out of control because of markets.

But costs have been increasing precisely because of the employer-based insurance they espouse, which is a consequence of a biased and non-free-market tax code. It favors employer-based insurance and penalizes other types of medical insurance.

We consume medical care like a business traveler dining on the company’s expense account: Since someone else pays the bill (insurers), patients need not shop around, so providers don’t compete on price. Why?

Tax-discounted insurance encourages us to buy more costly insurance than we probably need, hence penalizing saving for future medical expenses. Our “insurance” has become prepaid health care.

Employer-based insurance also coddles insurance companies, which have little incentive to please consumers. They know we’re essentially locked to our employer and the costly insurance plans they offer. To buy a competitor’s product, we must change jobs or pay a stiff tax penalty.

The AFL-CIO should be ashamed of promoting self-serving policies that both empower labor unions and result in expensive medical care and insurance.

For a way out of this policy mess, see Michael Cannon’s piece on Large HSAs here and here. He compares it with McCain’s plan here.

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