Relief for America’s Health Care Titanic

by | Aug 6, 2001

Over the past few months, congress has been trying to make it easier for employees to sue their employers if they are not happy with their health insurance plans. Yes, you read that correctly. Liberal-socialist-statists want to hold employers responsible for the fact that HMOs are so unsatisfactory. As if employers have any control over […]

Over the past few months, congress has been trying to make it easier for employees to sue their employers if they are not happy with their health insurance plans. Yes, you read that correctly. Liberal-socialist-statists want to hold employers responsible for the fact that HMOs are so unsatisfactory. As if employers have any control over what a health insurance company does. Of course this proposal is being pushed by trial lawyers, who are not content with merely slapping unlimited, nonobjective liability suits on doctors and health insurance companies. Now they want employers, who provide the health insurance benefit in the first place, to be sued too.

Remember the scene in the movie Titanic where nearly everyone had become aware that the ship was sinking, and major portions of the ship were already under water? That’s where health care is at this point. Get to your life boat, quickly. And read on.

It’s not all bad news, if you look beyond the horizon. If such liberal-socialist-statist legislation passes, many employers will simply stop providing health insurance to their employees. The only reason most of them do so now is because the government gives them large tax-credit incentives for providing health insurance as a benefit rather than, say, higher salaries to employees. (Most employees enjoy no such tax break to purchase health insurance on their own, at least not yet). Facing increased liability from the proposed patient’s “bill of rights,” most employers would probably stop giving their employees health insurance and instead increase salaries or other benefits.

If employers stop providing health insurance to their employees, then guess what? Employees will have to start shopping for their own insurance. At this point, huge numbers of voters will justifiably demand and insist on one-hundred percent tax deductions for health insurance premium expenses — essentially the same tax deductions big companies and self-employed individuals currently enjoy. All kinds of new profit-making companies will compete to sell to the millions of individuals now seeking different types of health insurance. We’ll see something much closer to a privatized health insurance marketplace than we currently have, and an end to the increasingly one-size-fits-all cafeteria style menu of various HMOs which differ little in substance or quality. And, most importantly, doctors will once again start to work for patients rather than third-party entities such as HMOs and government agencies.

I’m painting a rosy picture, but a conceivably realistic one over the longer-run. It’s unlikely that Congress, with liberal Democrats funded by trial lawyers again on the rise, will voluntarily allow such privatization. But the health care situation is getting worse, and they may end up having no choice in the long-run. This demonstrates how people who declare war on the nature of reality must ultimately fail. Communists who declared war on reality in an utterly consistent way ultimately failed, and so too must the less extreme welfare statists who operate on the same basic principles of economic theory and morality as did the Communists. Keep in mind that the damage done by decades of liberal, welfare-statist policies is why there’s so much political demand for a patient’s “bill of rights” in the first place.

It’s going to get worse in medicine in the coming few years, because the so-called patient’s rights legislation President Bush is likely to sign will either do nothing or do still more damage to the floundering medical field. I won’t be happy to see things get worse. It frightens me to hear more and more complaints every day about the nonresponsive doctors who frequently make mistakes; about the waiting lists of three and four weeks for appointments; about the unpaid claims and the unreturned calls from doctors. I wish it didn’t have to come to this point, but it’s happening because it had to happen given the system we have legislated into existence over the last many decades. I’m hopeful that once we “hit bottom” on the health care crisis, our government will have no choice but to liberalize, privatize, and enact pro-freedom laws. Unless, of course, they’re prepared to insist upon a total government takeover, and risk the political repudiation they received for that in 1994, the year of the Hillary Clinton plan.

One thing is certain: health care’s moment of truth is approaching. It didn’t happen in the year of debate over the Hillary Clinton socialized medicine plan, and it won’t happen this year either. But it’s coming closer and closer. When we hit bottom, we’re at last going to proceed one way or the other: either to outright single-payer socialized medicine (completely controlled by the government) — or dramatic steps toward privatization. There have been some significant, though beginning, steps in the privatization direction with respect to Social Security and retirement benefits in recent years. Might the same develop with medical care? We shall see. One pillar of the welfare state (Social Security) is already rocking. If the second pillar (medical care) begins to do the same, many pro-freedom scenarios will become possible. The Titanic is sinking, but it’s not yet sunk. And even if it sinks, relief could be on the way: it’s called privatization.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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