Taking the Individual Mandate Off Life Support
9:29 AM, May 13, 2011 • By TOM MILLER
Fourth, no matter how much money taxpayers decide they can afford to throw at the wall of insurance coverage problems, the real key to affordability is health care that is delivered quicker, simpler, cheaper, more consistently, and more effectively. An individual mandate tries to ignore that problem, because it cannot solve it. To fix it, better incentives are needed for more efficient health care. Less affordable health insurance is a secondary symptom, not the primary cause, of high-cost health care. We should insist as private purchasers and taxpayers that insurers and health care providers find ways to offer different mixes and methods of care and coverage that cost less and are worth more. The bureaucratic tool kit stuffed into several hundreds of pages in the Affordable Care Act failed to include the most essential item: market-based supply and demand.
In the meantime, what if President Obama – who never officially embraced the idea of an individual mandate during his initial presidential campaign – decided to cut his political losses and agree that the mandate wasn’t such a good idea after all? He’s already signed an extension of the Bush tax cuts, kept the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility open for business, grudgingly conceded the need for at least some cuts in federal spending, increased troop levels in Afghanistan, and dispatched bin Laden without reading him his Miranda rights. The president could retain most of his health law legacy by jettisoning its weakest link before rolling the dice at the Supreme Court or in the November 2012 election. But that’s not something I would bet on.
Tom Miller is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and coauthor of Why ObamaCare Is Wrong for America (HarperCollins, 2011).