VIEWPOINT: Blues should look to market, not government
BISMARCK -- Sometimes, an industry can be its own worst enemy. Case in point: The health insurance industry has properly opposed the government-run health care plans pushed by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. Unfortunately, the...
BISMARCK -- Sometimes, an industry can be its own worst enemy.
Case in point: The health insurance industry has properly opposed the government-run health care plans pushed by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. Unfortunately, the industry also has been pushing an alternative proposal that is just as bad, and perhaps even worse, than government-run health care.
The health insurance industry calls it "the individual mandate." The simplified explanation of "the individual mandate" is that Congress will create a law that says everyone must buy health insurance like they do auto insurance.
This plan often is referred to as RomneyCare, after state-imposed individual health insurance mandate that Gov. Mitt Romney led Massachusetts to adopt.
The health care debate has been polarized as government vs. insurance companies. This is a faulty analysis.
In a recent Herald viewpoint, Paul von Ebers, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, touched on a few bullet points straight from the industry playbook that was written by a group called America's Health Insurance Plans ("The Blues' views on health care reform, explained," Page A4, Sept. 29).
(The group's agenda can be found online at www.ahipbelieves.com .)
Bullet Point 1 of von Ebers' op-ed stated: "We believe everyone should be covered, and to achieve that, we support subsidies, guaranteed issue and an effective individual mandate."
The industry does not oppose government intervention in the health insurance market -- so long as it forces people to become customers of insurance companies. AHIP also supports huge government subsidies to help people pay for the insurance they are asking Congress to force everyone to buy.
This is not going to solve the problem any more than the government-run plans.
The North Dakota Taxpayers' Association long has been on the record as opposing government-run health care.
In the name of consistency, anyone who opposes government-run health care must oppose government-mandated purchasing and subsidization of private health care.
Instead, we would like to offer some suggestions and reasoning on how to ease some of the financial pressure on those without health care. They involve doing things other than government takeovers and government mandates on individuals.
-- Upfront pricing: Enables easy consumer choice.
-- Employer-matched health savings accounts: Gives employers tax incentives to match employee contributions to HSAs.
-- Billing-rate liability write-off: Encourages doctors to donate time to community free clinics by letting them write donated time off their federal tax liability at their typical hourly rate.
-- Student loan payments in lieu of tax liability: Cuts the tax liability of nurses and other support staff by the amount paid toward student loans.
-- Premium deductibility: Lets individual purchasers of insurance deduct their annual premium from their taxable income.
-- Eliminate state mandates: Lets insurance companies offer pure "a la carte" coverage.
-- Cross-border compatibility: Encourage states to reach agreements to let companies sell across state lines without creating new federal regulation.
These are just a few of the ways that health care reform could increase consumer choice and competition.
It is unfortunate that von Ebers is parroting the industry line about individual mandates. I would like to invite him, his company and the insurance industry as a whole to embrace the free market rather than more government mandates.
The industry has enough enemies. There is no reason for it to embrace more government and have both the left and the right oppose its policies.
Gawrylow is the executive director of the North Dakota Taxpayers' Association.