The Magazine

Vermont's Badly Managed Care

From the January 12, 2004 issue: Dean's health care record as governor is nothing to brag about.

Jan 12, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 17 • By DAVID GRATZER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

How to beat the former governor at his own game? The White House should champion a competitive market for health insurance, allowing citizens more choice and lower premiums. This could be accomplished very simply. Give Americans the ability to buy health insurance from other states. If people in Vermont or New York can buy a mortgage from a less regulated state, why can't they buy an insurance plan in another jurisdiction?

The federal McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 empowers states to regulate "the business of insurance." But nothing stops Congress from passing legislation allowing the interstate sale of health insurance. Indeed, such a bill would reflect the principle of the Constitution's Commerce Clause. And it would also be consistent with free market principles since interstate restrictions leave many Americans at the mercy of a small number of local health insurance carriers--which for Dean's former constituents can be counted on one hand.

In 1992, Dean said: "There is no such thing as an informed consumer of health care." Republicans need to present voters with a less paternalistic vision. They can start by empowering Americans to buy affordable health insurance. The Burlington man spending $5,000 a year on insurance would, in Connecticut, pay less than half that. Washington should give him the option to buy the out-of-state plan. This would help stave off the disastrous scenario predicted by Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern when he said: "After November 2, there will be a doctor in the house--the White House."

David Gratzer, a Toronto-based physician, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.