Monday, March 15, 2010


At one point a few weeks ago, after the special election when Republican Scott Brown was elected to replace the late Edward Kennedy as the Senator from Massachusetts, it appeared that President Obama’s health care bill was dead. However, a decision was made by the President’s men to make a last ditch effort to pass some version of nationalized “health care reform” legislation before the November, 2010, congressional elections. Thus, the debate on what sort of health care we should have in a free society has started anew.

Paul Ryan, the six-term congressman from Wisconsin who has become a leading spokesman for the Republican point of view on health care reform, tells us that

“[u]nder the terms of our constitution, every individual has a right to care for their health, just as they have a right to eat. Their rights are integral to our natural right to life – and it is government’s chief purpose to secure our natural rights. But the right to care for one’s health does not imply that government must provide health care, any more than our right to eat, in order to live, requires government to run the farms and raise the crops.”

In making these statements, Ryan alludes to the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment (“No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”). He also indirectly alludes to the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”).

Congressman Ryan urges with conviction that our Government’s obligation in protecting the health care rights of our citizens would best be met, not by seeking to supply the health care need itself, but by making adjustments in the health care system to unleash competition and choice. In other words, we should reject the health care model promoted by the Obama Administration “in which federal bureaucrats tell us which services are allowed.” We should also reject, he says, “today’s business-government partnership…in which bureaucratized insurance companies monopolize the field in most states.” Instead, we should adopt a health care model “consistent with our constitution in which health care providers compete in a free and transparent market, and in which individual consumers are in control.”

Ryan says that our goal should be to simply reduce health care costs – not to subscribe to the ideology that we should abandon our nation’s traditional free market economic model. In order to reduce health care costs, he advocates and states that:

1. We should end the current discrimination against those who do not get health care insurance from their jobs. “Everyone paying for health care should receive the same tax benefits”;
2. We need “high risk insurance pools” in the states so that (a) those with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage that is not “prohibitively expensive” and (b) so that the costs in non-high-risk pools are stabilized and driven down.
3. We need “portability” – a simple and obvious way to reduce costs. In other words, we need to allow people to purchase health care insurance across state lines – just as they do car insurance and other goods and services.
4. We must establish “transparency” in terms of costs and quality of health care. Ryan tells us that in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “an MRI can cost between $400 and $4000, and a bypass surgery between $4700 and $100,000.” He says that if consumers are empowered and allowed to compare prices and quality of services, the free market will solve most of our current health care cost problems.

Paul Ryan made these observations in a recent speech at Hillsdale College on January 13, 2010, and they were adapted for Hillsdale’s monthly publication, IMPRIMIS (which in Latin means “In the first place”). I wonder why we do not adopt Ryan’s simple suggestions, especially since President Obama has said that the federal government will go bankrupt if we do not reduce health care costs.

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