Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) bravely showed up at a town hall to discuss health care reform, and rather than being shouted down, (thankfully) she got the chance to take a serious question from one of the people in the audience. (Please see the full story and video from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.)
CONSTITUENT: My question to you, Congresswoman Tsongas, is that if this is such a great plan, why did you opt out of it when you took the vote [loud applause, standing ovation]?
TSONGAS: People often say why don’t the American people have what those of us in Congress have. [Audience erupts] Let me explain what I have. Let me explain what I have. What I have is a tremendous array — you know, last year when I went to a discussion — what I have is a tremendous array of choices. And I made a choice based on what I was willing to pay for and what made sense in terms of coverage for me and my family. [Audience shouts out: “We want choice! We want choice!] This is essentially what we are creating for the American people. We are creating greater choice.
Leaving aside for the moment the fact that if these proposed Congressional plans are so great, why wouldn’t she sign up herself, do they really provide greater choice? Ed explains exactly why this is a fantasy which many supporters are falling for.
No, Representative Tsongas, you’re not creating choice. You’re restricting choice, both explicitly and implicitly. The ObamaCare bill explicitly forces private insurers into conformity in dictating coverages in order to qualify under state “exchanges”, which greatly reduces choice and will almost certainly wipe out at least some existing private plans. Implicitly, the public option will undercut private insurers and give businesses a chance to opt out of providing coverage at all — which means as many as 83 million Americans will lose their insurance in the first ten years. Thanks to the rules set up by ObamaCare, those people will have no choice at all but to take the public option.
Every time I try to raise this point here I get an immediate rush of responses insisting that all this plan does is “create competition” which will drive down prices by reigning in the evil, money grubbing insurance companies who are ripping us all off. What many of these staunch defenders seem unwilling or unable to examine is that fact that such a system relies on top-down control of medical care costs. Any time top-down price control is attempted by governments the result is uniformly bad. Generally it’s used to try to keep prices down, but on rare, odd occasions it’s been used to artificially inflate prices, such as in Italy during the early 1900’s. It didn’t work well there either.
Forcing prices down below market rates results in lower availability of resources as per basic laws of supply and demand. You can’t make the manufacturer of five million dollar M.R.I machines start selling them for fifty thousand dollars. (Well, you can, but they won’t stay in business for more than five minutes.) The same applies to insurance companies providing the commodity of health care coverage. If you make them “compete” with a government plan which doesn’t have to obey the same market rules as everyone else, and attempt to dictate who they will cover, what services they will provide and what they can charge, you drive them out of business and your “choices” go away.
Of course, for people in Congress, this isn’t a concern. They won’t have to take the public plan which many Democrats still seek to foist off on the rest of us. There will always be someone to provide gold plated coverage to the elected officials who control policy. This works out pretty well for Niki Tsongas. For the rest of us? Not so much.