By Jacob G. Hornberger
Ever since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, conservatives have had a field day complaining about Obamacare and promising to repeal it whenever they got the chance to do so. That chance has now arrived, with Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency.
Now they don’t know what to do. Many people have become dependent on Obamacare. They’re likely to be left out in the cold with respect to insurance coverage if Obamacare is repealed. What do conservatives do about them?
Conservatives are now trapped by their own mantras and penchant for reform.
More fundamentally, don’t forget that there was a gigantic healthcare crisis that preceded Obamacare. That’s why Obamacare was enacted — to resolve the big crisis in healthcare. That crisis did not suddenly go out of existence. As soon as Obamacare is repealed, that same crisis will resurface.
What do conservatives do then? Enact some conservative version of Obamacare?
There is just one big problem, however, with whatever reform plan conservatives come up with: It’s not going to work. Like every other healthcare reform plan that has been enacted since the 1960s, it will produce new crises, which will cause people to demand new reforms. It’s a never-ending process. The end of the road, of course, will be a complete government takeover of healthcare, just like in Cuba and China.
In order to resolve America’s healthcare woes, it is necessary to get to the root of the problem. That root consists of socialism, regulation, and interventionism.
Consider Medicare and Medicaid, the two massive socialist healthcare programs that were brought into existence during the Lyndon Johnson administration in the 1960s. Up to that point, the United States had the finest healthcare system in the world. Healthcare costs were low. Except for policies providing coverage for catastrophic illnesses, most people just paid for their healthcare expenses the same way they pay for their groceries and other essentials.
It’s not a coincidence that healthcare costs started soaring after Medicare and Medicaid were adopted. These two programs enabled doctors to order unnecessary tests and treatment for seniors and poor people, which sent healthcare costs through the roof.
Consider healthcare licensure. As Milton Friedman showed many years ago, medical licensure is nothing more than a protection racket, one that protects licensed healthcare providers from competition from alternative healthcare providers. As every college student learns in his first year of economics classes, constrained supplies inevitably mean higher prices.
Consider the federal income tax, which encourages employers to provide healthcare insurance coverage for their employees. Divorcing the employee who seeks medical care from the person who pays for the insurance coverage was a recipe for financial disaster because the employee no longer has any incentive to keep his healthcare costs low.
Consider government regulation of the insurance business. It prohibits or inhibits genuine interstate competition among insurance companies for people who exist all over the country.
I have said this for the entire 27 years of FFF’s existence but it bears repeating: There is one — and only one — solution to America’s healthcare woes. That solution does not involve reform of America’s socialist and interventionist healthcare system. Instead, the only solution is a total separation of healthcare and the state — i.e., the end of all government involvement in healthcare — a total free-market healthcare system.
Donald Trump supporters are convinced that he’s going to be the savior of healthcare socialism and healthcare interventionism in America. They think that he’s going to be the one that finally makes Medicare and Medicaid, occupational licensure, income tax manipulation, and insurance regulation work.
It’s not going to happen. Whatever Trump does will only make the situation worse. That’s not because he’s a bad person or incompetent. It’s because no one can make socialism and interventionism work. They are inherently defective paradigms.
People who are tempted to devote their lives and resources to healthcare reform would be better off going to the golf course instead. Healthcare reformers are just wasting their time, money, and energy. There is nothing — repeat nothing — that anyone will ever be able to do to make socialism and interventionism work. The only healthcare idea worth supporting and advocating is a free-market healthcare system, not only because it’s based on the concept of individual liberty but also because it’s the only thing that works.
This article was originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation.