Recently, Theresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Presidential candidate John F. Kerry, told us that we must be idiots if we don't support her husband's health plan. The plan, in short, offers a variety of government subsidies to offset healthcare costs for workers and employers. The program seeks to help those 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance, and thus, little or no access to health care. This is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed. However, in light of Mrs. Kerry's remarks, after a quick look at the history of government subsidies and programs for health care one might wonder what kind of idiot would support Kerry's plan.
Major government involvement in health care began with our socialist Medicare and Medicaid programs set up to "help the vulnerable". These initiatives, which begun during LBJ's failed "Great Society" subsidized health coverage for the elderly and poor respectively. As with any other situation in which specific groups are given services without seeing the direct cost of what they are consuming, prices went up for people who were not in the targeted groups. This concept in economic terms, is called a shortage - a simple concept that Congress routinely ignores.
The poor and elderly used and overused (wasted) their subsidized medical care, leaving less medical care for people who were neither poor nor elderly. The lack of supply due to overusage combined with an increase in demand due to subsidization, drove up healthcare prices for anyone who wasn't eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Thus, thanks to the government, many people were punished by having to pay for Medicare and Medicaid both through taxes and with higher health care costs - all for the crime of not being in a targeted special-interest group. An idiot couldn't have drawn up a worse scenario - until Congress reconvened.
As the aforementioned government programs caused health care costs to skyrocket, the gang on Capitol Hill cooked up another disaster to "solve" the crisis they started. The solution was them, of course. This time, the government decided to provide people with more health care by forcing them into HMOs with the 1973 HMO Act. This act hid the true costs of health care from an even larger group of people - virtually all employees in medium to large-sized companies - who now, instead of paying directly out of their pockets for health services, paid an HMO in advance for subsidized services. The act predictably drove up prices for people not in HMOs. Meanwhile, since the government act attached health care to employment, those who were out of work were hit hard, finding themselves facing astronomical prices with no health insurance to help foot the bill. Idiots indeed.
Now, as the costs are starting to catch up with HMOs, making them increasingly expensive and unaffordable for employed and unemployed alike, millions are left without access to health care. Average Americans are wondering, or should be wondering, how health care became so unaffordable. Such things don't occur in a vacuum, there is always a cause. In this case, that cause is government involvement which has caused nothing but harmful distortions from which we all suffer. Unfortunately, the disasterous consequences of government involvement in health care have been used by politicians such as John Kerry as justification to unleash more of the same. This course of action is a stupid attempt to defy logic.
A horrendous cycle has been started by Washington and Americans are caught in the middle of it. We are unecessarily paying arms and legs for our health care. Meanwhile, the health care barons in D.C. who have been more like a weapon of mass destruction than any true help regarding health care, receive plush health insurance plans for themselves and their families at our expense. This notwithstanding, the solution, thankfully, is pretty simple. Eliminate the problem - Congress' benevolence.