EDITORIAL: Don't give us warm garbage juice, GOP
Politicians flee Washington each August to avoid a humid heat so intense a dumpster stench wafts through the air.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the Senate hanging around until at least the third week of August this year. He hopes his Republican caucus might pass a health care bill - just any bill, it seems - and the public fears a plan that smells like warm summer garbage juice.
McConnell plans to release a revised plan Thursday, but expect more proposed tweaking with the edges of a health care regulatory scheme that confuses coverage with care.
If Republicans aren't ready to disrupt the health care system with bold, consumer-friendly legislation, they should just go home in 18 days.
An obscure 2013 report by the Mises Institute of economics details how Washington has limited the supply of health care and increased entitled demand since the creation of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965.
Since then, as Mises documents, government has embarked on at least five major health care maneuvers that each increased demand and reduced supply. Example: President Richard Nixon expanded Medicare coverage and actively limited the supply of hospitals and clinics by requiring "certificates of need." His advisers believed health care companies could increase profits and lower costs if they did not have to compete. This is never taught in Econ 101.
Government's tangle of perverse market controls, combined with subsidies and entitlements, has put health care costs on a soaring trajectory with no connection to the consumer price index.
Escalating costs inspire well-intentioned consumer subsidies, which only increase demand and push prices higher. We see the same dynamic when government throws money at college tuition costs, which likewise defy the gravitational limits on inflation.
In our bizarre contrivance of a health care market, patients fear the doomsday prospect of health care "rationing" by whichever political party they dislike.
Newsflash: We have been rationed for decades. It's called weeks-long waits for appointments, shortages of specialists, prices few can afford out of pocket, high deductibles and co-pays, and doctors who won't see Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare patients.
Rationing hurts individuals and families, who each year must spend greater percentages of their incomes on health care. It is money they cannot spend on homes, food, transportation, education, clothes and recreation. Aside from health care providers, all segments of the economy suffer.
As repeatedly explained in this space, Uncle Surplus has always been the consumer's best friend. Everything from food to fuel to lawn furniture competes for the customer when government discourages market scarcity and favors abundance.
The Mises report concludes:
"Assuming government subsidy of the elderly and poor serves the public good, the cause of the U.S. health care cost crisis appears to be that government didn't allow the supply of doctors and hospitals to respond to increased consumer demands. Politicians from both major political parties created a self-fulfilling prophesy by assuming markets couldn't work in health care. The obvious solution is to increase the supply of physicians and hospitals to meet demand."
Republicans, lean on supply side principles your party advocates. Stop messing with insurance. You were right about Obamacare, saying "coverage is not care."
Give us a health care bill that unleashes the forces of federal bureaucracies to allow, subsidize and encourage more health care.
Direct the Small Business Administration to back clinics in strip malls. Ease immigration for foreign health care providers. Give grants for wellness clinics in fire department substations, where paramedics already reside. Tell the Federal Trade Commission to reduce barriers to entry and competition in the health care sector. Authorize the Department of Education to enhance student aid for medical studies.
Think outside the box. Flood our market with care that competes for the patient with innovative efficiencies and competitive pricing. Create a market that restores health insurance as an emergency backstop. Reserve Medicaid and Medicare for those with no prospect of providing for themselves.
Before August, tear up Obamacare Light and start over. Don't play small ball, play the long game. Stop thinking coverage and start thinking care. Otherwise, leave the mess we have and get out of the heat.