Recent opinion columns provide excellent guidance to gentle readers still unsure as to how health insurance reform ought to proceed versus how it is actually proceeding.
At the Gray Lady, token center-right columnist David Brooks aptly summarizes Obama's political strategy for passing a reform bill. With Brooks we affirm that nothing coherent or relevant is likely to emerge from this slapdash process, only the yield of a political trophy for the President.
Across Manhattan at WSJ the editorial board notes well the absurdity of claims that proposed reforms will make American businesses more competitive. Health insurance costs, whether paid to insurance companies as a present or to the government in the future, are for businesses just part of the total cost of having an employee. Over the long term money paid for health insurance thus becomes money that would otherwise be paid to the employee. So it's not American competitiveness that's losing out but American personal incomes. Hence, the solution is not to shift insurance to government but to shift insurance and decision-making about costs to individuals.
And so Holman Jenkins of WSJ offers the final unit of the seminar, a hypothetical look back at what would happen if the Republic took a different course than the kind proposed by the President. Specifically, if overall income tax rates were lowered but health insurance were taxed as income (and remember that tax-free health insurance benefits historically are a consequence of working around wage controls during WWII), individuals would be incentivized to find bargains and providers to compete on cost and effectiveness. That is, conventional market forces would be restored to health care, over time with the usual improvements in efficiency.
Thus endeth the seminar.