Friday, September 21, 2007

 

What Kind of Learning?

It’s nice to know that people, even politicians, can learn from their mistakes.

Senator Hillary Clinton, her friends and supporters tell us, learned a lot from her previous brush with Universal Health Care. Her new plan, such as its been defined and communicated, certainly reflects Sen. Clinton’s wizening on how to persuade Americans that we want socialized medicine, if not what such a plan should specifically define or how the plan’s features are publicized.

The devil is in the details, as they say, which may explain why Sen. Clinton has conspicuously left any such demons out of public descriptions of her new plan.

Taking her queue from misguided conservatives of yesteryear, Sen. Clinton insists her plan is all about individual choice. Those with medical plans and coverage will be able to keep such coverage, and only those currently without medical coverage would be required t o sign up for either private or public plans. The Government will not create any additional bureaucracies, merely issue new regulations and prescribe corrective actions against misbehaving Medical insurance providers.

Choice. Coverage for the uninsured. No bureaucracy. The dawning of a new and glorious age in Government services. A relatively modest 100+ billion dollar price tag, a mere pittance compared to the costs of current entitlement projections. Who wouldn’t want that? If only the premises for such a panacea held any basis in reality.

First, there’s the price tag. Critics, such as those at CATO and Heritage, quickly object to both the total dollar cost, which is widely expected to be many magnitudes greater (say maybe 10 times or more), or the projected “medical cost savings” that the mere existence of Universal Health will generate. (That’s one of those unusual laws of the political universe, versus the physical one, that when you move monies between entities public and private, the net amounts get to change because you want them to.)

One of the snappy comparisons Sen. Clinton made in announcing the outlines of her new plan was to observe that, “We require owners of motor vehicles to take out car insurance. Why not require people to have medical insurance?”

That’s only one of the more specious selling points in the current debate, but one easily refuted.

States require car owners and motorists to have car insurance, not so that their financial interests are protected in the event of an accident, but that the financial interests of innocent others are protected.

This is obvious to anyone who’s ever been in an accident with an uninsured motorist. The rationale behind mandatory auto insurance is that otherwise, an uninsured motorist with reckless disregard could cause damage to the property of others, and cause physical harm to other motorists or pedestrians. In many cases, people who don’t opt for car insurance when voluntary don’t have financial means to cover the costs of others when they are at fault.

To continue the false analogy to car insurance, what does the Government do when someone can’t afford car insurance? Do they subsidize or pay outright so that the person can get insurance, and get his vehicle registered to drive?

Take the further example of a reckless driver with multiple accidents and a bad driving record. For these poor souls, they may find car insurance cost prohibitive, or not offered at all by insurance carriers. Should the Government provide them coverage too, or underwrite the cost of their policies, or force the insurance carrier to do so?

(Well, yes, in some states to some degree, they do, but I’ll bet most people outside of Insurance Actuaries and their progeny don’t know that, and would find it illogical.)

Needless to say, political-minded “economist” and Bush-bashing sycophant Paul Krugman opines that “the economics of universal health care are sound.” This from perhaps the world’s last economist who still thinks the US economy has been in the toilet since 2000, without regard to historically low unemployment, non-existent inflation, a booming stock market, and one of the longest periods of economic expansion in our history. (“Krugman says its economically sound? Time to bail out!”)

I’m starting to hear local talk radio in my area pick up on HillaryCare, enthusiastically agreeing with her observation about car insurance. Talk radio hosts aren’t always particularly well-informed or logical. They also make observations like, “Don’t you hate how often you have to fill out forms, co-pays, referrals? That’d be all eliminated with Government provided coverage.” That’s right, Government is always more efficient than private industry, and everybody knows how much Government bureaucracies just hate paperwork!

There’s no doubt Sen. Clinton has learned a great deal indeed about a better way to sell America socialized medicine.

Too bad Sen. Clinton accomplished the same amount of “learning” about the dangers or disadvantages of socialized medicine. Alas, HillaryCare 2.0 would prove just as disastrous to the US, our healthcare, and our economy, as its ill-fated predecessor.

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