Shoving Government Health Care Down Your Throat
By Richard E. Ralston
August 9, 2005
One of the few bright spots in paying for health care today has
been the introduction of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), in
conjunction with low-premium, high-deductible insurance policies. In
what is perhaps the most popular medical insurance reform in
history, more than a million consumers in California and elsewhere
have already established these plans that provide tax incentives,
reduce cost and increase personal choice.
The California Department of Insurance is now taking steps to
outlaw these insurance policies and savings accounts in California.
The Department has just released a report and public relations
effort that attacks such consumer choice as a threat to the
Insurance Commissioner’s personal agenda to bring all health care
under government management through a “universal” health care
system. (“Priced Out: Health Care in California”)
About the only honest feature of the report is in the opening
disclaimer from Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi: “This report
is not a neutral presentation of facts. . . This report and the
recommendations contained in it are my views and opinions and those
of my staff” This is Commissioner Garamendi’s way of telling you he
is using your tax dollars to turn the Department of Insurance into
his personal political lobbying organization. The pervasive use of
his name and loving photograph in the report might also indicate
that the report is a way to use your tax dollars to run for
Governor. Particularly touching were his reminiscences of his
service in the Peace Corps.
Because of their tax advantages, HSAs are attacked as being a
benefit only for the wealthy. Take a moment and try to picture
Donald Trump greedily rushing to shelter $2600 in one of these
accounts so he can save a couple of hundred bucks in taxes. These
accounts aren’t worth the paperwork for the wealthy. They are worth
the effort for most of us—middle class consumers who struggle to pay
both their taxes and their insurance premiums. This is both smart
and a principled way to take personal responsibility for health
care. Commissioner Garamendi seems unconcerned with such
people—probably because they don’t want to have to rely on him for
their health care.
The report also attacks HSAs and the high-deductible insurance
policies to which they are linked because they “are likely to cause
many to forgo necessary treatment.” In other words, all of these
wealthy consumers with HSAs will not spend their own money for their
own health care. They will seek treatment only when someone else is
required to pay for it. Wow! This is in a report whose supposed
purpose is addressing the high cost of health care now.
Imagine what it will cost when we shove “necessary treatment” down
the throats of well-off people who don’t want it.
It is clearly the very popularity of HSAs with consumers that the
Commissioner sees as a threat. The chief complaint is that the
federal government could make better use of the $7 billion a year in
tax savings which these consumers realize: “These resources would be
spent more effectively if they were used to help fund a universal
health care system.” Of course, $7 billion would not even be a drop
in the bucket for such a system. But the principle upon which these
government functionaries base this fatuity is that government spends
money on health care for everyone “more effectively” than
individuals can for themselves. The history and cost of the massive
increase of government intrusion in health care in the last forty
years clearly demonstrates the absurdity of such an assertion. But
as the objective of the report is a vast increase in government
power and government control of your daily lives, such facts need to
be papered over.
If you have a Health Savings Account in California, or ever want
to have one, you will have to defend it in the face of those
grasping for government power. Consumers elsewhere need to be alert
to the fact that other ambitious Insurance Commissioners may soon be
inspired to assault personal choice in their states.
Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.
Copyright © 2005 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.
For reprint permission, contact AFCM.