Now that it’s expanded health-insurance coverage to nearly all of its citizens, Massachusetts is trying to figure out what to do about the rapid rise of health costs.
The latest proposal comes from the state’s governor, Deval Patrick, who yesterday proposed a bill that would give the state the power to review—and, in some cases, reject—rate increases by doctors and hospitals.
No doubt many will see this as a good thing: What's the harm in making sure that providers don't increase their rates too much? Isn't part of the point of health care reform to help keep the cost of care from rising so fast? The way to accomplish that, however, isn't with government-enforced price controls, which is what Patrick's proposal amounts to. Forcing providers to keep prices low will almost certainly result in shortages or cutbacks elsewhere—in innovation, expansion, upkeep, and time and effort spent on care itself. The power to control the price of medical care is the power to control medical care itself.