Friday, March 19, 2010

Goldwater Institute: Latest version of health care reform as scary as original

Congressional Democrats are maneuvering to push through the latest version of President Barack Obama's effort to take over the nation's health care systems by this weekend.
While purporting to scale down the massive federal health-care proposal that a large majority of Americans oppose, the latest White House scheme preserves some of the worst features of the original.

At least in one case, it's even worse. Though the details are sketchy, the new plan would create a Health Insurance Rate Authority, consisting of a seven-member board to review proposed health-insurance rate increases. Insurance regulation traditionally has been primarily an individual state prerogative, and it's unclear how much of that authority the board would displace. At best it would subject rates to a second set of regulatory eyes, which is a good thing only if the goal is to completely replace private enterprise with government bureaucracy.

The proposal also preserves the "individual mandate"--the requirement that all individuals, regardless of their needs or circumstances, must purchase health insurance or face a fine. But people won't be able to buy whatever insurance plan would meet their individual needs (such as catastrophic coverage only). Every plan will have to include all the features the government demands.

Although subsidies would be provided for low-income people, the penalties for refusing to purchase government-approved insurance would reach up to 2.5 percent of a person's income.

In Arizona, voters will have the chance to amend our state constitution this November to protect the right not to be forced to participate in a health-insurance system or to be fined for refusing to do so.

President Obama has indicated a willingness to include features of Republican health-reform proposals, such as health-savings accounts (which increase choice and accountability while keeping costs down) and small efforts toward tort reform. However, his plan will not allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, which would increase choices and lower prices.

The plan is pure adrenaline for the tea-party movement, and fodder for those of us lucky enough to have a litigation arsenal at the ready to protect individual autonomy over some of the most important decisions people make.

Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

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