Originally created 07/05/97

Beware of HillaryCare

Sometimes America should reflect and be thankful for what it doesn't get. A case in point is the nationalized health care scheme President Clinton tried to impose on the nation in 1994-95.

Die-hard fans of socialized medicine should take a look at what's happened in Kentucky, a state that adopted HillaryCare pretty much as the administration proposed.

The state's health care system is in a shambles with 45 health insurance firms having fled the market. Health insurance rates have risen to record highs and fewer Kentuckians are covered today than three years ago when the state Legislature passed the Health Care Reform Act.

Kentucky-based policy analyst Rachel McCubbin writes in a Heritage Foundation report that, like similar health-care reform plans in Minnesota and Washington state, the Bluegrass State provides "an excellent case study in the law of unintended consequences."

Instead of expanding health insurance access, HillaryCare reduced it. Instead of controlling health care costs, the regulatory regime contributed to increasing the costs. Instead of providing more health insurance options for consumers, the plan provided fewer.

Perhaps the chief lesson for state health care reformers is that political attempts to micro-manage the financing and delivery of health care can undermine public trust and confidence by making public officials appear incompetent.

Instead of limiting consumer choice and competition by trying to establish instruments to control and direct the health care system, state officials should facilitate successful reform of the health insurance market by encouraging Congress to make fundamental changes in the federal tax treatment of health insurance.

Congress could do this by giving individuals and families tax relief in the form of tax credits or vouchers, or by allowing them to open medical savings accounts. Such reforms would enable Americans to purchase the kind of health care benefits they want at prices they wish to pay.

The worst thing the GOP-led Congress can do is to approve a series of seemingly well-meaning, mini-step changes proposed by the administration or congressional Democrats that look great in theory Ä just as HillaryCare did. They would, before long, put the nation well down the road toward socialized medicine, with all the ugly attendant consequences.

Unfortunately, these are the type of "reforms" Congress is most seriously considering. A Medicaid scheme to expand taxpayer-funded health insurance to all the nation's children and Medicare plans to cut back even more on payments to hospitals and physicians are just two reforms on the front-burner Ä and more are coming.

They may sound like great government programs, but they won't sell in Kentucky. That state has learned the hard way that centralized control of health care is the surest way to destroy decent health care. Congress should learn from the Bluegrass experience.


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