I was amused yesterday to find out that Matthew Yglesias over at the left-leaning Center for American Progress has stumbled across my 2004 article "Mandatory Health Insurance Now!" and sent out this tweet to his fans:
"Excellent defense of the individual health care mandate from @Reason: http://ygl.as/iaydWc"
Excellent defense? Well, not really a "defense" but an alternative to really bad ideas like a single payer plan. But thanks, I guess.
Not suprisingly, The New Republic's chief left-wing ideologue Jonathan Chait picked up the ball tossed by Yglesias and ran with it. He quotes a bit of it and then writes:
The article proposes a plan centered around an individual mandate as a private insurance alternative to the "creeping socialism" proposed by John Kerry, who was then running for president. Now, of course, Reason considers an individual mandate a massive imposition upon freedom and even unconstitutional. (Indeed, Roger Vinson's ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional cites a segment on Reason TV.) Now, the plan as a whole is far from identical to the Affordable Care Act. But its defense of the individual mandate is virtually identical to the case liberals have been making, and which conservatives and libertarians have been angrily dismissing.
Far from identical to ObamaCare? Well, yes.
ObamaCare involves a massive expansion of Medicaid; does not promote health savings accounts as a way encourage consumers put price pressure on health care providers; continues to link health insurance to employers; punishes companies for not covering employees; enforces the mandate by means of levying tax penalties on citizens; and will eventually attempt to restrain spending by turning insurance companies into utilities by bureaucratically setting their rates.
BaileyCare would enable all Americans to purchase health insurance in a national competitive private market. It would completely eliminate Medicaid and S-CHIP (and possibly even Medicare) and use those funds to provide vouchers to poor Americans helping them to buy private insurance in a competitive market. It also would completely delink insurance from employment; it is a consumer-driven plan that combines high-deductible catastrophic insurance with health savings accounts with the aim of using market competition to rein in health care expenses. Vouchers also mean that there would be no need for tax penalties to force people to buy insurance.
So why did I offer BaileyCare as an alternative to what eventually evolved into the economically and medically absurd mishmash that is Obama's Affordable Care Act? As I wrote:
I want to stress that mandatory health insurance is a second-best proposal. A totally free market system would be preferable; it's just not likely politically. Mandatory health insurance is a way to stop creeping socialization and preserve private medicine.
In any case, the intellectually blinkered Chait goes on to declare:
In any event, watching the right decide a policy it once advocated is not only unwise but a threat to freedom itself is a fascinating episode of ideological hysteria.
Right? Advocate? Never mind that political and intellectual subtleties are lost on uber-partisan Chait. Clearly, what I did not attempt to do in my 2004 article was offer any sort of analysis of the constitutional or legal status of a national health insurance mandate. Fortunately, Chait links to just such analysis done by my colleagues at Reason.tv. For excellent analyses of the flaws in ObamaCare I heartily recommend the work of my colleague Peter Suderman. For further analyses of the legal and constitutional aspects of ObamaCare please see numerous articles by my Reason colleagues here.
In the meantime, as we wait to see how the federal courts rule on the constitutionality of a health insurance mandate, I hope that I can count on the Center for American Progress and The New Republic to advocate the repeal of ObamaCare and support the adoption of the BaileyCare private health insurance plan.